No, I’m Not Keeping ALL My Books

Wow, that Marie Kondo book thing hit a bit of a nerve. In addition to the article I posted two days ago, I’ve seen numerous more hot takes since then, from both sides of the “give away your books” debate (yes, purge ’em and no, keep ’em), to snarky twitter-meme roundups (one and two). They been propagated (and re-propagated) by enough of my book-loving friends on social media, that I can understand why a different friend of mine threatened to cut a bitch if she (to paraphrase)

saw that “Marie Kondo is wrong keep all your old books including the Y2K guide to AOL” article one more time.

Okay, she just promised to yell a lot, not to “cut a bitch.” Maybe that’s what I’ll do if I have to see these articles too many more times.

I’m also of deeply divided mind about this question. Well, maybe, “divided” isn’t the word. Let’s just say I have a shades-of-grey approach to this rather than a black and white one.* I would not even remotely want to let “spark joy” be the only rule by which I decided what books to keep. But there’s pieces behind that simplistic-sounding phrase that totally carry truth for me.

I began trying to articulate this two days ago when I offered this:

The first revision that comes to heart is what enriches me and my life, as opposed to what depletes and degrades my quality of life.

It wasn’t a bad starting place then, and it’s still a good one now. Here’s how that’s been breaking out for me this week, as I have (oddly enough) been doing a minuscule bookshelf purge.**


I’m releasing intellectual guilt and obligation around grad school reading lists (it’s amazing how tenacious that can be, even this many years later). Books by old professors, books that were once assigned to me, books that I should have read because “everyone who’s a 20th c. American Lit specialist reads Kerouac!“–all fair game. No obligation to pitch them, and there’s plenty I’ve kept from a feeling of sincere fondness. But Kerouac hit the Goodwill pile, guilt-free. If I ever do decide I want to read On the Road***, it’ll be easy enough to get a library copy.

I’m forgiving myself for the “sunk costs” factor of the dozens of self-help-ish/inspirational books I’ve purchased along the way, hoping they would magically fix me via osmosis. Again, there’s plenty I’m keeping.**** But if its wisdom/approach no longer speaks to me, then it’s gratitude and good-bye.

The last set of books I’ve been looking at is all my 2018 challenge books. As I went through the year, I kept putting all the completed challenge books on one shelf together. At least the completed challenge books that I own as paper objects–lots of them were e-books and/or library books. I knew all along that when I got to the start of 2019, there would be some books I was fond enough of to keep, and there would be some I was happy to send to Goodwill. So: good-bye, Middlemarch, and Hamiltome, don’t ever leave me!!

But the extra piece here is I’m asking myself why I need to keep challenge books until the end of the year. Since, as I pointed out above, so many categories get checked off with e-books and library books, it’s not like I’m ever gonna do some impressive photo shoot on Dec. 31st of “all the books I read this year.”***** Given that fact, why can’t I shift the challenge books I want to clear onto the Goodwill pile as soon as I’m done reading them?

Answer: I can. And this year, I think I will.

* I know: shocking.

** Key word: miniscule. I will always and forever live in a bookworm’s home.

*** Highly unlikely, considering how many decades I’ve not had any wish to do so.

**** I should stop saying that. Let’s just take that detail for granted: whatever category of books I’m doing some purging in, there are also “plenty I’m keeping.

***** Besides, that’s what Goodreads’ Year in Books data visualization is for….


Image credit: PxHere, with a CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0)
Public Domain designation.


4 thoughts on “No, I’m Not Keeping ALL My Books

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