Once I had moved enough times to let go of the idea that I had to keep every book that I read in college, book culling became somewhat easier. And although I have a couple of friends who once bee-lined for my bookshelf so that they could deliver an assessment of my literary tastes, I rather like Billy Collins’s attitude on discarding books:
Frankly, I am well into the second phase of life when one begins to enjoy getting rid of all the stuff one enjoyed accumulating in phase one. And who needs such elaborate announcements of one’s literary credentials?
After all, is a gentleman’s library of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves anything more than a vanity? Now if I can just get rid of all the mirrors in the house.
Another writer, David Matthews, describes my past approach to shelf-editing, “Soon, my bookshelf is lean. All muscle and bone. All that remains is my literary DNA.” This is a good reminder that it’s time to shed some fat from my shelves (mainly gifted novelty books, and novels that I quit reading for lack of enthusiasm 50 pages in).