With books, is possession 9/10 of the law?

Confession: I have one bookshelf. It’s a short-but-wide three-shelfer – and the entire bottom shelf is full of books for work. So I actually have two shelves for all the books I own – and I would be entirely okay with whittling this collection down further.

I love books, but I love reading books far more than I love owning books. My parents would probably beg to differ, as “my” books take up far more real estate in their house than they do in mine. My dad swears that he suffers back problems entirely cause by lifting boxes marked “Books – Holly – Heavy,” when they moved from Chicago to the sunny South.

Medical diagnoses aside, I say that proves my point further – I would have thought my parents well within their rights to consider my books abandoned since I didn’t come home to claim them before they moved. And every time I’m at their house now I make piles of stuff to get rid of.

Anyway, I know some people really take pride in their book collections, but I have developed more of an easy-come, easy-go relationship with most books. And in fact, this might actually be far more rewarding than maintaining a static book collection. The universe tried to drive home this lesson for me recently, so I thought I’d share it with you.

A few weeks ago, I had a great visit with two friends (and loyal GIAO readers!) and my friend Colleen needed something to read on her way home (with a caveat that she is only reading fiction all summer). I sent her off with two books: first,  Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects which I didn’t love (and which another visiting friend had left behind months ago), and second,  (which I threw in at the last minute) Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees. I love that book, but I reasoned that I’ve read it twice and the chances of my reading it again anytime in the next decade are slim to none (considering all the books that Amanda demands I read).

In return, Colleen left behind what looks like a fun read for me – MWF Seeking BFF.

The next day, in the mail, I received a copy of Dorothy Must Die, which Amanda snagged from the publisher for us. Yes!

Less than a week later, J & I went to a book talk for the author of Winnie Davis – Daughter of the Lost Cause (which Amanda had suggested to me months ago. She’s like the sixth sense for books). So now, I’ve got a signed copy of that to read and to fit somewhere on my bookshelf.

After the talk, we wandered into a record store in Richmond, and found the three Millenium Trilogy (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) movies on blu-ray for $15 – sold! So then I remembered that I have the first and the third books but not the second, so I grabbed a copy of that from a used bookstore, so that I can reread them soon.

And then I got home and found two books in the mail – from my friend Dusty, who sent me more David Foster Wallace reading – Infinite Jest and A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Againeven though it took me three years to read the DFW article he suggested. (Sidenote: I have awesome friends.)

4 books in one day – until Amanda texted me shortly before bed and told me that The Golem and the Jinni was $1.99 on Kindle. The last time it was listed as a daily deal, I didn’t get it, and regretted it, so I jumped on it this time.

Of these recently acquired books, I’m not sure how many will remain on my bookshelf for the long-haul, but I’m sure I’ll pass on something else soon (to a friend, to www.paperbackswap.com, to a library booksale or a used bookstore). And I’m sure something else will find it’s way to me too.

If you love books, set them free! Or keep them at home and cultivate your own collection, if you’re into that. I don’t judge. Just don’t ask my dad to move it for you.


  1. I used to hang on dearly to all my books. Certainly I would read them again, right? Well, sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t. And I have moved so many times. After many, many moves I have learned to start parting with the books. Actually, after one particular almost cross country move, I left behind 90 %of my possessions. It was both sad and liberating. Now I feel pretty free from the burden of too many possessions. My kindle has greatly helped me along this book unburdening journey. I can hold a full bookshelf in my hand after all.

  2. I’m a book HOARDER. I’m sure the thought of moving again makes my fiance want to cry because I obviously don’t have the upper body strength to move them all. I’ve tried to be more fluid with my book collection but I always end up collecting them. I fear I will be an old woman surrounded by books – they will probably cave in on me and that’s how I’ll go.

  3. At every mention of my books, my dad starts to roll his eyes and tell me that I should clean out my shelves… But I’m a self-admitted hoarder. I’m very sentimental, though, so I keep a lot of books because of experiences associated with them. If I don’t like a book (or with a lot of review books in general) I’ll often donate it to my local high school’s library. I’m about to finish college, which means I’m going to have to get my own real place to live instead of college apartments, so I’m dreading moving all of those books! 🙂 I really think we’re all different, though.

  4. I’m like you in this way I think with a few more bookshelves. I have 3 full size bookcases and 1 half size bookcase. But for the most part I trade paperbacks pretty much as soon as I finish them. I use paperbackswap a lot which helps thin out the collection. Moving books is rough! They’re so easy to pack but then they’re so freaking heavy! By the way I love the blog name! That’s one of my favorite sayings.

  5. I’ve always been a book hoarder. I guess I have something of an emotional relationship with books, and I keep some out of sentiment more than out of the fact I actually enjoyed them.

    However, I’ll be moving cross-country soon and it turns out that shipping a huge book collection is expensive, even with media mail rates. And I’ll have a tiny apartment with nowhere to put them all. So now I’m making hard decisions and trying, for the first time in my life!, to get rid of books I don’t really love. I’ve probably given away hundreds and there are still a ton left, but I’m hoping it will be worth it in the end. 🙂

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