How A Book Purge Fixed My Personal Library


We currently exist in a time where book unhauls and book purges are very popular. I was never on that bandwagon. I don’t keep books that I didn’t enjoy. They automatically go in a bag to be traded, sold, or given away. But books I haven’t read yet don’t get touched until I’ve read them. Well, that was the rule until very recently.

I started to realize that there are certain books in my personal library that are only there for one reason: they were cheap. They were a dollar or under, and I couldn’t resist. It was a deal, and I love deals. I suddenly become a lot less picky when the price drops that low. It feels good in the moment. A little endorphin rush. Then I get them home and put them on the shelves and… stare at them. For months. For years. Suddenly it doesn’t feel good at all. There’s a sense of dread, especially if I looked them up on Goodreads post-purchase and realized I might’ve bought some of the most hated books in existence.

But then I get stubbornly determined. I will read these! VALHALLA! And then I don’t, because I’m lying to myself. Or if I manage one, I don’t like it, and I get into a reading slump. It was a very ugly mental space, because I felt like I was failing myself. Especially when I also buy books I actually do want to read, and they gather in piles on the floor, because my shelves are full of books I couldn’t care less about. Bad, bad, bad.

What broke the cycle? Something that also broke my rule about DNFs. I started a book called The Devourers by Indra Das. It had gotten mixed reviews, but it was about werewolves, my favorite monster. So I wanted to at least try it. It had a lot of problems. It was a very existential piece where characters mostly just argued about being human or not being human, which was boring and not written in a way that made you want to read it even a little. Then there was a sexual assault, and I snapped the book closed and realized I don’t want to read this anymore. It’s not the story I wanted, and it’s pissing me off.

So I put it in the trade bag. Then I gathered the Catherynne Valente books I’d been in the middle of for months and couldn’t bring myself to keep reading, took the bookmarks out, and stuck those in a bag. Then I gathered up those books I kept looking at and knew I wasn’t going to read. I was brutally honest with myself. If I really did feel like it would get read, I put it back. If not, it went in a bag. I ended up with four bags. I wanted to emphasize that, because that’s how much leftover crap I had just sitting around making me feel bad. That’s how much stuff was keeping me from putting the books I really do want to read on my shelves.

Luckily, there’s a bookstore that takes trade-ins that’s about a half hour away from me. I made a trip out there, got rid of three bags worth (the rest they couldn’t take for various reasons), and replaced it all with a bunch of new stuff I’m excited about. I had so much credit I didn’t have to pay a dime. That last bag is going to be given away probably, but most importantly, they’re off my shelves. I was able to put all my books sitting in the floor, making me look like a genuine, I’m-not-joking-or-making-light-right-now hoarder, and put them on shelves like a balanced human being.

I feel amazing about it. No regrets. I’m not thinking about those books and wondering if I made the right choice. I know I did. Now every single book in my library makes me excited to read. They’re all books I love or hopefully will love. My library finally looks like a curated collection that reflects my interests, my past and my future, and who I am as a reader. I highly recommend going through this slightly painful but ultimately very cleansing process. You’ll feel lighter afterward.

Thanks for reading, and as always, happy geeking!

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