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Buster Keaton in Sherlock Jr., 1924

January 11, 2014

Weeding out books challenge

Next week I have lined up reviews of two books, a western and a horror—my first book reviews this year—as well as reviews of short stories that I'm reading with great vigour than I did last year. My goal is to read at least six books per month, two every ten days. Anything more is a bonus. So far I'm nearly through with three books, the third being a vintage mystery. I also plan to read a lot of short stories in nearly every genre though I won't be reviewing every one of them.

Saturday morning, I cleaned my primary bookshelf with the chief purpose of weeding out books I'd, and hadn't, read, and ensuring that no termites or silverfish were feeding on the pages and bindings. Fortunately, there weren't any. The twenty books I got rid of included a few that belonged to me, such as three very old, tattered, and yellowed Carter Brown paperbacks (unread), Of Mice and Men and Cannery Row, and The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck (read), India: A Mission Mutinies Now by V.S. Naipaul (read), Vultures in the Sun by Brian Garfield (read and reviewed), Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak (read), and Angels and Demons by Dan Brown (read).

I wanted to dispose of more books in my collection but every time I picked up one, to toss it into the giveaway bag, I heard myself saying, “Next time,” and back it went on the shelf. Weeding out books is as ambitious as a reading challenge. In fact, reading books is less of a headache than getting rid of them. It’s like orphaning the books. A certain level of detachment is required to do that.

This year, however, I do want to get rid of more books than I did last year, which means I'll be reading that much more.

Nowadays I seldom give away books as I rarely come across people who read. This leaves me with two choices: sell them to used bookstores or to old paper marts or scrap dealers, known as raddiwallahs. Selling your books to either is the literary equivalent of a criminal offence: in the first, they’ll be strewn around, collect dust, and whatnot; in the second, they’ll be shredded and recycled into paper cups or toilet paper. 

A final word: a book is a man’s second best friend. Last evening, I attended a conference where some half-a-dozen central (federal) ministers spoke one after another. Their speeches were long and tedious. Rather than fall asleep, I opened my book (the western I mentioned above), and read a few more pages. It was time well spent.

11 comments:

  1. I LOVE the idea of setting monthly reading goals. That's a great way to stay on task for the year. I'll now be doing the same. Look forward, as usual, to your reviews.

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  2. I have a goal of reading and reviewing two books a week, one recent, one from anytime in the last century. I tend to give away review copies of books, except for those from friends. I give books to the library for fund-raising sales, and to thrift shops for resale (Goodwill, Out Of The Closet, the LGBT center).

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  3. I've tried weeding out books before but it almost never works for me. I just find I have to keep them, even though my shelves are bulging

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  4. I struggle with getting rid of books that I haven't read. I used to have the same problem letting go of books that I had read also, whether I particularly enjoyed them or not. (I'm a hoarder at heart.) Once I managed to start letting go, I don't have a problem passing on what I'm done with now.

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  5. I am the worst book hoarder - pleased to come across a fellow sufferer! I also complicated my situation by regularly moving abroad, dragging (and paying a fortune for) my small library of read-and-loved or to-absolutely-definitely-read-someday books with me!

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  6. I have several boxes of horrible books I would love to sell to a raddiwallah. Wish we had them over here. I would even stick around to watch some of those books turned into toilet paper if I could. I might even laugh in the process.

    Good luck with your reading goals. They sound very doable.

    BTW - I would've done the same at that conference. I even read in the elevator going up to work somedays since I can't stand the constant chitchat about the weather and traffic.

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  7. I feel your pain Prashant - I just hide books in the loft rather than dispose of them!

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  8. What a sad line: I seldom give away books because I don;t find people who want to read. How can we change that?

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  9. I can't believe there aren't people you know who read. Sad, sad, sad. Are there libraries that accept donations? My local ones do, and some they put on their shelves while others go to the annual book sale.

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  10. I enjoyed this post, Prashant, and definitely sympathize with the struggle to thin out the book herd. I do it from time to time, but usually only get rid of stuff I bought on a whim and didn't end up caring for much. Stuff I like and think I might re-read at some point, or others that are perhaps harder-to-find titles, those I always keep.

    Looking forward to your ambitious book review schedule!

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  11. I have been trying to weed out more books lately too. It is very hard, though. I do have a co-worker I can pass on many mysteries to, and we give books to the book sale because they will make money from them. I am also trying to limit the books I hold on to if I have read them; I only keep them if I feel I will reread them... unless I love the cover too much.

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