So Many Books, Not Enough Bookcases

By Liz, still slacking after turning in my latest book…

I recently undertook one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had to do – cleaning out bookcases. A lot of them. About six, to be exact, counting the makeshift crates rigged up in my old home office to account for the overflow. And if it wasn’t for my iPad, there’d be a heck of a lot more to sift through.

It was an interesting process, though, for a couple of reasons. One, because I knew I needed to part with some of them. I want less stuff, and less clutter. And I knew I was holding on to some of them for the wrong reasons. Especially once I got into the bookshelves I didn’t frequent as much. See, I had this system. The little bookshelf in the dining room had my writing books, and a few special fiction titles. The tall shelf in the living room was my newer books, and ones I loved so much I needed to keep handy. These sometimes rotated, depending on how many new books I got. The medium-sized shelf in the bedroom had all the inspirational books (remember my obsession with self-help? Yeah, it filled a bookshelf). And so on.

So I started sifting them into piles. There was the I’ve had this for years and will never read it but I feel bad so I kept it pile. The Books From College and Grad School pile. The I Loved This and Will Keep it Forever Pile. The I’ve Read This Once and That was Enough Pile. The I Really Should Read This pile. The real To Be Read pile. Jeez, I think it took me longer to pack up my books than anything else I was moving.


Still, the thought of getting rid of any book makes me hyperventilate a little. It took a lot for me to start creating a new pile – the Books to Donate pile.

But I did it. This past weekend, I took two huge boxes to my local library, which has a year round book sale. It made me feel good to know they were going to a good home, and would help raise money to keep people reading.

Did I mention I’m still not done? I’ve got two shelves to go through…which means I need to buy a couple of new bookcases. But I’m hopeful I can consolidate to two shelves.

Tune in next week, when I’ll tell you all about how I’m organizing my To Be Read pile!

Readers, how do you handle too many books? Can you part with them? Where do they go?

46 Thoughts

  1. Oh, Liz, I feel your pain! Similar set-up here. Multiple overflowing shelves. Plus piles. Plus… Yes, that Books to Donate Pile sounds like a good idea.

  2. i sympathize. I weed novels and give them to a library when I run out of space, and now buy most new fiction as ebooks, but the reference books present a real problem. Most are too specialized to interest a small town library or they are gorgeously illustrated and I can’t bear to part with them or I’m sure I’ll go back and read them, rather than just skim for tidbits I can use in my writing. I’ve sold a few online, but that means making a special shelf for the ones I don’t want to keep and there is no guarantee anyone will want them.There is no easy solution, but if you know anyone who wants a like-new copy of The Inventory of Henry VIII, The Transcript and is willing to pay postage for a book that weighs about ten pounds, let me know.

  3. I think we’ve all been there Liz – or are getting there. My local Friends of the Library has a used book store in the basement, which helps fund museum passes and honoraria for authors! So I donate books to them, and cozies to my semi-shut-in neighbor across the street who reads voraciously. But it’s the weeding and sorting that’s the hard part, for sure. I rarely reread books – no, I never reread books. But I would never part with any of the Wickeds’ books, and I can’t let go of books from writers like our friends and mentors Hank, Hallie, Kate, and Roberta. It’s also good to keep books with great writing, especially when I want to check how somebody nailed the hook in an opening, or a chapter closing.

  4. Contrary to what I thought most of my life, I have come to realize that there IS such a thing as ‘too many books”; we had become hoarders.
    I have thinned out HUNDREDS, and have more to go…and eventually someone will have to dispose of the multitude that I will probably not be able to part with.

  5. I deal with them by closing my eyes. Inventory: office–a floor-to-ceiling wall of shelves with literature and almost every mystery I’ve ever owned, three deep (I may purge the romance shelves), plus a six-foot standalone bookshelf with reference books; hallway–six linear feet, some reference, some Irish; bedroom–my husband’s sole bookshelf; daughter’s former room–two bookshelves of her books; sitting room (where the TV is)–one tall case with reference (how-to) books; dining room–two bookshelves with cookbooks, with some overflow in the kitchen. Before we moved into this house I started a count, and gave up at a thousand books, and that was before I started writing. And yes, our local library loves to see me coming! I have no solution–yet.

  6. Well, we did finally get rid of the encyclopedia we bought when the children were little. A few years ago. (We are grandparents now) 😉

  7. Last time I moved I donated a batch of books to the local library’s book sale because I wasn’t going to have room for them. I need to go through and purge my TBR piles and get rid of the ones I’ve had for years but haven’t gotten around to reading.

  8. I’m a packrat by nature and so it’s hard for me to get rid of a lot of things but books, really hard. I have tubs full of books and most never read cause I have a book buying addiction too…lol. Even when I take books to the used bookstore I seem to come back with more books. 😉 I could get rid of clothes more than I could books.

  9. Any books I win I always donate to the library book sale, or the library if they don’t have a copy. I still keep old favorites as much to my dismay I find they are not readily available unless I am willing to pay outrageous prices for them. Those books are stored though not in bookcases.

  10. Oh! This process makes me sad every time we have to do it! We have 6 tall bookshelves filled to the brim and overflowing right now. My daughter’s set of shelves are the hardest for me. I love looking at the ones we’ve shared, the ones that were signed by the authors, the ones that were a new favorite and thus bought the whole series. My daughter finds it easier to clear out than I. It’s about time to clear out again and we too donate to our local library and our school. Sigh…

    1. It is sad. But necessary to make room for the new, I guess! And to save yourself from a towering pile of books falling on your head….

  11. We take lots of books to the library for their book sale…. but what’s funny is that when the book sale comes around, we end up buying more!

  12. Been there, done that. I had to be brutal a couple months ago. I have one bookshelf in the corner of our den that is “mine.” I had to thin out the books that were falling on the floor. One shelf is craft books – those I kept (the shelf isn’t full, so no worries). The fiction shelves got sorted into “stuff I can’t bear to part with,” “stuff I read and liked, but don’t want to keep/stuff I won’t read,” and “stuff for my father.” The second pile was quite a bit bigger than I thought it would be. All those went to my church flea market.

    We will not discuss all the built-ins, however, That would require cooperation from The Hubby and I just ain’t gonna get that.

    Like you, though, I’m buying a lot of fiction in ebook. Much more space-friendly.

  13. I’ve had to part with them because I moved to a smaller house and I also bought a Kindle. My mom’s eyesight is bad and she needed a Kindle. As we share books, I had to get one as well, and, as an author, I was against it at first because I love holding a book, but I’ve grown to love my Kindle. I still keep books on shelves, but I’ve had to become very selective, which is difficult when you are a book lover.

    1. It is really hard. And I do love the Kindle and iPad to read on – you don’t have to plan in advance of a trip which book(s) you’ll want to read, either.

  14. Hey! I see lots of space for more books in that bookcase pic! 🙂

    Actually when I downsized from a home where I lived for 35+ yrs and raised 2 kiddos, I gave 1 box of books (which my son had to pry out of my hands) to the local ARC Center. And am left with one 6ft bookcase and two 3ft bookcases in a 750 sq. ft. apt :). As I whittle thru them I have given some to local retirement centers (most have a small library), they are always happy to see some new books for their shelves.

  15. You echo so many of us! The “Books are old friends” statement comes to mind!

  16. I have book shelves overflowing and books piled on the unused upper bunk in my bedroom. I need to sort through them and donate those I know I’m not interested in any more. But it’s such hard work, and I can read or watch TV instead. So it never happens.

    Give me another decade and I’ll be an episode of horders. After all, I’ve got DVD, Blu-Rays, music, and ornaments in this condo as well.

  17. My book categories sound almost identical to yours, LOL!! I have a HUGE bedroom closet and used to keep my books in there on the top shelf. I felt happy whenever I went into the closet, but due in part to my husband’s prodding, along with my pragmatic side, I decided to dedicate a room in our house to reading and personal office space. Now I have beautiful book cases that house the majority of my books. Some that I’ve already read, and haven’t decided yet what I want to do with them, are back in the closet. I usually take books to our local second-hand bookstore, or I’ll swap them on because I know that they will get read since people actually request them. I’ll probably take some of the ones in the closet to my local library, or pass them along to friends. I’m very possessive of my books. I don’t let anyone touch the new ones.

  18. I had to get rid of about a thousand books when I down-sized my trailer. (Not to worry: I still have a couple thousand.) The hardest to dispose of were my late husband’s “art” books: I was advised by the local dealers to double-bag them in black trash bags and drop off in a dumpster by night.

  19. I have too many books to even count, and that doesn’t include the pile I’ve borrowed from the library. My friend had a small library built in front of her house. Now when I am finished with a book, unless it is autographed, I give it to her for her library. I have also started giving them to Senior Centers.

  20. We’ve given over three hundred books to the local library over the past two years. And there are so many more — they are like the Tribles in Star Trek. It’s so hard to part with books.

  21. I used to have book shelves full of books, no order of course, cause that’s how I roll, lol. I had built in book shelves, plain ones oh you name it. Well when I suddenly had to leave my house and move back home, I brought all the books with me. After I recovered a bit from and illness, I realized that seriously why did I need so much stuff. I started paring down my collectibles, including my books. Now I have very few books I actually keep. As soon as I am done with them I either send them to a few friends or I donate them all to the library. I read over 150 books a year and get some I do not read from other friends (shhhhh dont tell them I dont always read them please) so the library and my friends are very happy. After I realized that life can change in a heartbeat, I realized I did not need to keep everything. I realized I need very little to be happy. And boy howdy I am one very happy person too. Hang in there, getting rid of things will get a bit easier the older you get, 🙂

    1. Kay, I love this. Thank you for sharing. I’m getting there, I think – I have grown to love getting rid of stuff! Books are my last pain point.

  22. I feel your pain and hyperventilation when having to decide which books to weed/donate/get rid of, Liz. But frankly I am in denial, and fortunate enough to have a dedicated library and still free wall space to add more bookshelves (right now I have over 25 bookcases and counting). The only area where I am running out of physical space is my dedicated TBR bookcase. Photos of the TBR books were posted a few months ago on JRW (Jungle Red Writers) blog. The TBR books are piled sideways and often double or triple stacked to the ceiling since the bookshelves are deep enough to allow this. More new books come in faster than go out to the finished (read) bookcases. It is an addiction, for sure!

  23. I buy all e-books now so I don’t really have to deal with an over flowing bookcase. Oh wait, the three I have are near that stage, so I will donate the books that are not autographed to friends who’ll donate them to facilities.

  24. I used to do this for years but then I decided books are supposed to be read and if I wasn’t doing the reading then I was breaking my contract with the author and I needed to give them up.

    I still have my writing manuals but I use them less and less now so I started weeding through them. I have my signed copies and ARCs. I have my multiple copies in multiple editions of Rebecca because its my favorite book and I named my daughter after it.

    The rest go to the library when I’m done. Because books are supposed to be read. And the library needs funding. And I can let go of a book because a thing, a special thing, but still a thing. And you can’t take them with you.

  25. Friends first, then the library. But I prefer to hang on to them. Though I did get rid of some duplicates when I moved up here to NC.

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