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2000-12, 328, Book collecting, Jon Prance

The Painful Art of Weeding

Who said: “I may have too many books, but I don‟t have enough”? Well, I have too many books, and more than enough – and something must be done about it. But what? Where to begin? How does one reduce a lifetime‟s collection with a minimum of distress?

The following methods occurred to me the other day:

  • Look at each book that you have read, and ask yourself: Will I actually refer to this again or is it only on my shelves as a sort of literary trophy? Be realistic! On the other hand, do not throw out something you will miss for the rest of your life … but how to tell the difference?
  •  Discard whole sections, e.g. politics or stamp collecting.
  • Remove a fixed percent from all sections (minimum 10% – ideally 50% or so, if you intend to go on collecting).
  • Place an ad in the paper saying: “8000 books, free to the first person to come and remove them all, at his/her expense, this weekend”.
  •  Walk to the local shop and buy a box of matches.
  • Contemplate your retirement and scale things down accordingly.The last option is in fact the one we shall probably take. All it means is: imagine the two-roomed townhouse you will one day be going to, and work out how many bookcases you can have there. This could be one six by four feet and one four by four feet. Next – a bit like a game of Desert Island Books – you select those favourites you simply cannot be parted from. The selection once made, you then decide whether to sell or donate the rest. What could be simpler? But, for some reason, I am not really looking forward to that fateful day when so many good friends must leave my life. Perhaps I can arrange to be on holiday when the big van drives up.What do other readers think about this nasty, nagging problem? Help, please!

    Jon Prance



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