The Great Book Triage of 2006


Because the quantity of books I have threaten to collapse upon me and cwush my widdle head, we have, as a temporary measure, packed up the majority of my books into plastic tote containers, for easy shlepping to the basement. At some point in the near future I’ll put up some more bookshelves and they will be released from their polyurethane entrapments, but for now, it’s best for everyone involved.

Krissy has suggested this will also be a fine time to do a little culling of the books, and so I’ve gone through the collection with an eye toward which books I have more than one copy of, which books I’ve read but am likely never to read again, and which books I got for some unfathomable reason yet have no intention of reading (the picture above isn’t of the reject pile, incidentally; this was a picture near the beginning of the sorting process). I’m the sort of person who would generally prefer to give up a limb than give up a book, so you might imagine this was painful for me; I basically looked for excuses to keep ’em. But eventually I had over 100 books headed to the used bookstore. May God have mercy on their souls.

The sorting process did make me confront just how many books I have that I’m not likely to let go of. Books by friends, books given to me by friends (whether they’ve written them or not), and books that limited and/or first editions are all books that are not going anywhere, and I seem to have accrued a lot of those, with more coming in as we go along. There are worse things, of course. But it does mean I’m going to end up buying more bookcases than I imagined I would.

26 Comments on “The Great Book Triage of 2006”

  1. Hey, John,
    What used bookstore did you end up taking them to? I’d probably be interested in seeing some of the stuff you ended up selling. Did you ever consider eBaying them? I know that Cinci-based writer Mike Resnick puts a lot of his stuff on eBay.

    Or maybe donating to your local Friends of the Library organization? I know here in Columbus Half-Price Books pays very little for books you take into them, barely offsetting the price of gas it takes to get them there. I always feel better taking them to the CMH library because of they can’t use them in their collection they end up selling them at one of their quarterly sales and buy stuff they actually need.

    Just curious!

  2. I typically offer books to the library, but I find that my local library is less interested in books that are not reasonably new; also I asked them if they’d like some of the SF books I have, and their response is that SF books don’t get checked out much, so it’s not worth their while.

    eBay: I have no interest in dealing with the hassle of selling things online. I’m not selling book I’ve written, just books I have no use for.

  3. This will likely horrify most of you.

    For years my family would donate to the Friends of the Library and would attend their twice-yearly book sales. Last year we found out what happens to the books that don’t get bought. They get burned.

    The Friends of the Library don’t have the space or the money to keep books that get passed over year after year. So they burn them at the end of their year.

    It became a pretty big deal in my town. I’ve been told that donations have been seriously affected as a result. Justifiably in my opinion. I’d rather sell my old books used than let them burn. Even if it’s a good cause.

  4. I have similar problems. But I’ve made serious inroads into my “to be read” pile by sometimes starting books that don’t currently appeal to me. Sometimes I end up enjoying the book, but might or might not keep it – and other times I get 25% – 50% through the book and put it into the sell pile.

  5. I’m afraid that I would go back to the used-bookstore and try to buy back the books I sold them. I’m that bad.

  6. Taking them to a used bookstore, gives them a new life with a new family, new readers, and happiness all around. Now thats goood karma.

  7. Once you get into the mid four figures on various media, I’d recommend this with the optional barcode reader, if you really want there to be any chance of managing it all. Sure, it’s dorky, but it helps avoid the “did I already buy this” issue.

  8. I have such a hard time taking mine to the used bookstore, too, but I have such fun browsing the used bookstore.

    It is a conundrum.

  9. About a year back I cleared out nearly half of my book collection (I think it came to about 300 books, some of which I’d had since grade school). I gave some of them away to friends, and donated the rest to my local library. I was amazed, however, at the number of people who were genuinely appalled by my decision to carry out this culling. I don’t get it. Why should a book that I have read once and will almost certainly never read again languish on my bookshelf instead of going to someone who might enjoy it? How does possessing that book – especially in light of the fact that hundreds of other books stayed with me – make my life better?

    Of course, my situation is a bit different to John’s seeing as I live in a small non-English speaking country and have a slightly esoteric taste in books. I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that there are or were books in my collection of which I owned the only copy in Israel. In light of that fact, hoarding books seems downright mean.

  10. When my parents moved to Tahlequah, Oklahoma, my mum remarked on the excellence of the library’s scifi collection. There must be (another) good squeaky wheel in that town requesting the latest scifi.

  11. I routinely cull books I don’t plan to read again and take them to second hand book stores.

    There’s no point hanging onto a book you won’t read (like so much psychological baggage), so why not release it into the wild?

    Somewhere out there is a person who’ll gasp with delight when they serendipitously discover it. We’ve all had that feeling ourselves, it’s good to share it. As Jim said, it’s good karma.

  12. As someone with very little cash to spend on books, people who sell good stuff to their used bookstores can be a godsend.

  13. Man, you think you’ve got storage problems. I’m getting up to 25 books in the mail, many of them hardcovers, from publishers every month. On the one hand, it’s like a dream come true. On the other, I have one spare bedroom with stacks of books up to my waist. Sometimes, culling is easy. I don’t do media (Star Wars, etc.) titles or vampire crap, so anything like that I get goes into the “outta here” pile immediately. Hardcovers are more likely to be kept than paperbacks, mainly for aesthetic purposes (shelves full of hardcovers look kewler in your home library than old paperbacks). There’s a good used bookstore nearby I’ve almost been singlehandedly stocking in SF and fantasy.

  14. The Mac program Delicious Library has a feature that helps you put books up for sale on

    If you have an iSight camera, the program will use the camera as a barcode scanner. When it scans the ISBN (or you type it in) it goes out to Amazon and pulls down the information about the book, including a cover. (When I bought the program I wound up spending the whole night doing this for my 500-some books.)

    You can also record where the book is shelved or stored, keep track of who has borrowd a book, and jot miscellaneous notes about your books (and search for them later).

    In addition to books, it’ll track this information for CDs, movies, and games.

  15. I remember a Heinlein character or two opining that if they kept all the casual fiction that they ever read, that they’d have no space to live.

    I’m good for a book or three or four a week, many of which are completely forgettable. Thank the gods and well used taxes for public libraries. And double thanks for used book stores.

    I have friends who value their science fiction libraries, and who have quite impressive ones. I’ve helped them move.

    I once also valued my extensive SF collection, but one day something snapped and I didn’t need to keep them all so close. I didn’t need to own them, I just needed to read them and know that I could find them if I needed to. Very Buddhist and non-material of me.

    I’ve been a librarian, and now cull my collection at any opportunity, as a good library should. I’m the librarian of my own collection, and I’m the only user.

    If I honestly will never read a book again or have no reason to reference it, out it goes. If I doubt, if the public library has it, out it goes.

    The pleasure of looking over well-stocked bookshelves is nice, but pales quickly.

    I do spend money on new books, because the library and used book stores don’t get books in nearly quick enough for my rate of reading.

  16. But if you want to keep your books, you’ll need bookshelves built for actual books. Any bookshelf you buy nowadays is built to hold knickknacks, not books.

    I believe that I first saw the link for Book Eating Bookshelves by T.N.H. in this blog, but don’t feel like searching for the actual reference, so here’s the link:

    It’s an excellent start, but if your collection isn’t all hardbacks, you should use the following measurements:

    paperbacks: 8″
    quality paperbacks: 9″
    hardbacks: 10″
    oversize: 13″

    I lump quality paperbacks in with hardbacks, and just go with that spacing. Use pine whiteboard and not plywood or particle board, it’s stronger, easier to work with, and looks nicer.

    It’s lighter, as well. I can easily pick up and move a shelf unit built of whiteboard, but my old particle board shelves were crazy heavy.

    8″ board works for everything, but you can get by with 6″ board if you have only paperbacks.

    If you don’t want to attach the shelves to the wall, push the books back. Facing the books even with the front of the shelves looks nice but puts the center of gravity forward and leaning outward. You want the shelves leaning against the wall.

    I love my wall o’ shelves, and my books have never been shelved so efficiently.

  17. Books books books, what a dilema!!

    For 23 years, I limited myself to paperbacks as with the constant relocations brought on by a military lifstyle, it was easier to box up and move them. Since retiring in 2001, I have gone about replacing my favorite titles with hardcovers…..a lot of my paperbacks were literally falling apart by now. I love the fact that I can find most of them used online and am in the process of creating my own personal “Wall O Books” as I do find actually holding a well bound book to be a comforting experience.

    How to store and display them?????? buy a stud finder and get a bunch of the 6 foot shelf rails they sell at home depot and screw them to the studs in your walls at 18 inch 1X8 inch pine planks to set on top of the adjustable shelf brackets and you are in business. the biggest advantage of this system is it wont fall over and will bear as much weight as you care to load on it!!! Ikea also has some of this stuff for those of you who dont like Home depot or Lowes. One of the previous writers was correct in stating that most currently manufactured bookcases are really not made to display any real weight of books!!

  18. Hi, my nmae is Fred and I’m a biblioholic. And I own a used bookshop. Much like an alcoholic owning a bar.

    In my two bedroom apartment there are currently over 9000 books on shelves and in boxes. And I love them all. I wish I could give a home to more books. That’s how bad the compulsion is.{;>)>

    I recently donated most of my 5000 item SF collection to a local liberal arts college library. It’s now a named collection. I kept about
    1000 books as a ‘working’ library.

    But the 2000+ history books, the 1500+ volumes of poetry, the 1500+ books of conspiracy lore, the 1200 books on environmental science and the 1000 books on Taoism will someday need homes as well.

    And, no I haven’t read them all. But I might. If I live another 40 years and don’t acquire another book. (probability of either event approaches zero, of course.)

  19. I commend to you the institution of the Book-Box, sometimes known as the Box o’ Books. This is, as you may suspect, a cardboard box containing books that you wish to be rid of, for the various reasons already enumerated.

    The box is taken to a group of people, some of whom may be readers. There are a couple of simple rules: You can pick over, choose, trade with others, or simply take, any book you please; but

    The price for any/all is that the box is gone. You must individually and jointly remove it from my space. Fight it out amongst yourselves, but regardless, the box and its contents are gone by the end of the day/party/whatever. YOU take it to the used bookstore. YOU take it to the library. YOU donate it to the local leper colony. Just so it’s gone.

    I’ve done many of these and they work quite well. Once you’ve decided what goes into the box, anyway.

  20. Bookshelves need anchoring, but moly-bolts and drywall screws into found studs are not a practical choice for those who live in rented quarters and aspire to the return of thier damage deposits.

    There is a simple device, a drywall anchor, that works well, does not require finding studs (indeed, it eschews studs) and leaves mimimal, easily repairable (to the point of undetectable) damage to the walls it’s used on.

    Viewed sideways and end-on, it looks like the letter “T” with a screw in its head. It is made of plastic and the down bar is two fat but sharpened legs that divide into an inverted “V” when the screw is tightened.

    To use it, you hammer it into the wall at a spot where there is no stud. It creates a small, thin vertical slit in the drywall, with the head of the “T” resting flat against the wall. You insert the screw through whatever you want to anchor and into the top of the “T”, tighten it, and as it goes into the wall, the legs spread apart, anchoring it solidly.

    This is a much better and firmer anchor than it may seem, and will take a great deal of weight.

    To remove it, you simply unscrew the bolt, then use the claw end of a hammer to remove the plastic “T”. A pass or two with spackling covers the hole, and with not much practice you can do it well enough that it is completely invisible in a white wall. Or if repainted (routine for apartments being re-rented) completely undetectable.

    They are widely available, just check for drywall anchors. I’ve even seen them in grocery stores from time to time, amongst the miscellaneous hardware.

  21. Plastic drywall anchors are not a good choice for holding up bookshelves!

    If you do like I said in my previous post useing 2.5 inch drywall screws to attach the rails to the wall studs, thay can indeed be removed come moving time and the holes needing to be patched, 4 per rail normally, are very small and need only a finger tip smear of dap or spackle to hide. I am a practicing handy man and have had to routinely repair the damage caused by people who try the drywall anchor route and are always surprised when their stuff comes crashing down! Building code calls for studs at 18 inch intervals in most places for a reason, why not use them to hold up your valued book collection???? Dry wall has no load bearing capacity worth mentioning, the studs that it is attached to does… the math!!!!

  22. Unfortunately I now have to get a friend to take my excess books to the used bookstore for me. The last few times I went there I ended up buying more books then I donated. I would buy more bookshelves but I would have to buy a larger house first.

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