Book Riddance…

I mentioned a few weeks ago the state, at the time, of my TBR and how it had hit the over 700 title mark and I was quite surprised at the response that post received. A few of you admitted you were in very similar positions (which made me feel much better), some of you said you were heading that way and would use me as an excuse for buying more (making you feel better) and quite a lot of people were shocked and I felt possibly a little disproving (making me feel confused and rather guilty).

As book lover I have never seen there has ever been anything wrong with owning lots of books. As my Gran, who I know you all love, often says ‘to not have any books on the TBR or only just a few is a rather depressing thing’ and I couldn’t agree more. Since I got back into reading about six or seven years ago when I was having some health issues people bought me books… lots and lots of books. Then I ended up working next door to TLS and was given lots and lots of books. I lived near a ridiculously cheap weekend book market stall (10p a book) and then moved to an area that had another brilliant book shop and so without really knowing it I suddenly had lots and lots and lots of books and started the blog over two years ago when I probably had about 1100+ books.

When I then got the books pages of the magazine and new more books would be coming in after picking my self up from the floor after a joyous faint, I cleared them out to around 900 (I thought it was 700 I was so wrong) and that’s where the figure stayed until the weekend before last when the feedback made me brood and fret a little. I felt a bit all over the shop to be honest. I had a big chat with The Converted One, a couple of bloggers and my Gran who all said “why cull just reassess” and that’s what I have done. You can see part of the process below…

No Books Were Harmed During This Process

So I have reassessed and had a good old clear out and am now down to about 650-ish, the charity shop up the road has benefitted and quite a few of my friends will also be reaping the rewards and having their TBR’s added to with some lovely books. You can see My Mighty TBR has a new system and already lots of you are making comments about what I should read from the list. A few of you are also telling me books I should add to it like little bookish demons on my shoulder, ha.

I also have a plan of attack, I need to get reading one book by each other I have more then three titles of but have never tried. I started with Kate Grenville and ‘The Secret River’, maybe I will try Peter Carey, David Leavitt or Jeanette Winterson next, who knows? And that’s why I love having the TBR I do, its like having my own little library. It’s exciting choosing what next, there’s contemporary and classic, new authors I haven’t tried and favourite authors to return to and I am embracing that. End of.  

Oh before I wrap up I must add that the clear out didn’t stop at my TBR either, the books on my bedside (there were a lot) got sorted and my shelves in the lounge of books I have actually read have been whittled. Why did I have The Turn of the Screw, Heart of Darkness and The Catcher in the Rye when I finished them but didn’t actually like them? (I will admit it was so when people come round and have a gander they might say ‘oh you have read that’ rather than me actually ever opening them again.) Now my lounge just has shelves filled with favourite books and authors that one day I may possibly get around to reading again, no pressure.

So how do you organise your TBR? When do you cull (if you do and if you don’t please don’t be ashamed)? How do you decide which books you keep? Which books end up on your bedside? How do you work out what to read next?

P.S If you like seeing pictures of piles of books, incoming lists and don’t frown on overflowing TBRs you might want to read the post below… a small tonic for book ridding!


Filed under Book Thoughts

70 responses to “Book Riddance…

  1. I had a bit of a cull last year, and tried to get rid of stuff that had been sititng there for a while and which I obviously didn’t want to read THAT much. I don’t like my TBR to be like a library at all, somehow that makes me feel stressed and overwhelmed by books – maybe my flat is smaller than yours!

    For Jeanette Winterson do you have Oranges are not the only fruit? That’s her absolute classic!

    • I do have that Jeanette Winterson indeed, its on the Mighty TBR page under J.

      I am shocked to hear a book over (and one who works in a library) to say they wouldnt want their own personal library.

  2. You’re making me feel good, Simon, as my piles are still huge but smaller than yours!!

  3. Whoa! That is a lot of culling. Must feel good to have a leaner TBR. Something like a haircut?

    I still haven’t amassed enough books to even start cutting down. And I love the idea of having my own library, so I don’t think I’ll start cutting down books any time soon.

    • I wouldnt quite say it was leaner Michelle hahaha. Its a little trimmer maybe. Hee hee. I could do with a haircut at the moment actually, are you psychic?

      Never cull was my motto and as you know I nearly missed out on a Brazilian author from this cull. Thankfully you saved me.

  4. I live in a shared flat so I can’t let my TBR piles get too out of control as they encroach on everyone else’s space! However I am a bit of a ruthless culler with all of my possessions – every few months I get rid of a lot of stuff. As I move around a fair bit, I like to keep my stuff down to a minimum, as it’s a hassle to pack it all up every year or so and move it again.
    Books have been a weakness of mine for a long time and when I decided to consciously stop buying books at New Year, I culled a fair few from my library – mainly books I had kept just to look clever rather than actually having them because I loved them. Giving books away helped me to emotionally detach from them and viewing them as possessions – as clutter – rather than something sacred, has helped me to stop buying them, too. I don’t miss buying books, if I’m honest – my shelves are like a book shop as it is, as most of them are unread, and I have plenty of new ones to explore. I get such a sense of triumph when I read a book now, as I know it’s another book read, without three being added while I was reading it – I’m finally making a dent in the TBR and it’s great!

    • I am lucky as I have a two bed flat (thats like an upside down house if it was added onto a three story building – make any sense) and I married someone who doesnt hoard. I do move around but in the last two years its only been between flats in one building and that was so could have more room for… you guessed it!

      Glad your TBR denting is going well.

  5. I haven’t amassed enough books to cull I’m afraid. I think being away at Uni with two huge and fabulous libraries I didn’t bother buying books, and now I’m back home with just my bedroom not much room to amass haha. My main trick though I like to pass books on, part of reading is definitely sharing, so when I finish a book it general moves on to my Dad, Mom and other bookworm friends.

    • Don’t be afraid think of all the lovely books out there that you still have the opportunity to get. I like the idea of passing books on though I have to say normally if I liked a book so much I would have to keep it and then buy copies for other people.

  6. Dot

    I have just had a good old cull which was long overdue! You should never feel bad about how many books you own, the more the merrier I say!

  7. For a long time, I was certain I had too many books. I thought, “Man, a whole 25 books I’d like to read but haven’t gotten around to? For shame…” Except it turns out I’m not hoarding nearly enough! Do hoarded free eBooks count? Because in that case I’ve got maybe 200 (mostly mythology from the early 1900s) books to be read…

    I don’t really organize my stacks. I’ve cut back on my book buying quite significantly in the last few years (for budgetary and convenience reasons), but I do occasionally splurge. Mostly, though, my bookshelves keep me in check. I have one shelf for books I have yet to read and once I finish them, they make it to the main (larger) library. If there’s no room on the shelf, well… book buying will have to wait. So it’s never more than 25 books at a time. And hopefully over the next few months I’ll narrow that number down and move them to an even smaller shelf. I don’t want more than 5 books at a time on the shelf but I suspect that’s just wishful thinking…

    • Oooh you bring up a good question with that one. I hadn’t thought of e-books and at the moment my e-reader has a few on there… oh dear, oh dear! I will have to mull that one over I think. I dont include library books either. They are more a mobile TBR!

  8. Oh jeez, I sure hope I wasn’t one who made you feel guilty! My book area in the house is out of control. Not only that, but the books are not even stacked neatly. My problem is that my husband has a bunch of old text books taking up my space! That is my next task…get him to give up the textbooks to make room for a lovely, organized TBR.

  9. gaskella

    I too have a scarily large number of books in my TBR mountains. I last worked out it was about 20 yrs worth of reading at my current rate. However, I can’t bear to miss out on any new must-reads etc etc etc, so the new ones keep-a-coming.

    I am now culling all the thriller types and Tesco impulse buys like Jeffrey Deaver, Tess Gerritsen etc that I seem to have half a dozen of, and just picking the one or two per that I like the sound of most in the TBR to be disposed of after reading.

    I do tend to keep classics though – ancient and modern. Partly so that they’re on the shelf for when my daughter wants to read them (I hope) in the future …

    I think longer and harder about keeping books read these days too – well for a few seconds. Those I’m keeping mostly get packed into boxes, (I’m such a saddo, I’ve started a new spreadsheet for which books are in which box for easy retrieval).

    The idea of being able to browse your own library is one that I fully embrace too. It’s that whimsical reading thing, which often brings rich rewards when the book you read is 100% your choice, your timing!

    • I love the ideaof a mountain range of TBR’s thats conjured up some wonderful imagery Annabel. I must say though DONT CULL GERRITSEN! Sorry I know technically that was comment shouting but I had to get that out there to you. Gerritsen is a legend and must be read by all. It’s not the most literary reading but its bloody good.

      I have a spreadsheet of books and which boxes they are in too! Oh I have found a bookish soulmate, that and wanting a library of your own too, its too much ha!

      • gaskella

        I knew you were a Gerrisen fan, so I was a little bit mischievious there – but I do have half a dozen of them and they take up a lot of inches…. which are the best?

      • Only the Maura Isles and Jane Rizzoli ones, I will remember the titles and send you an email!

  10. Man, I’m not sure how I’ll be able to keep my sanity if I was in your position, let alone sort all those books! I only have about 35 books unread in my shelf, and already I’m going crazy trying to figure out how to finish them.

    But you know what my friend, go ahead and indulge! I realized too that there’s nothing wrong with having more books than I can read. It’s just like with the ladies, having more shoes (or bags) than they can wear 🙂

    And don’t you worry, I’ll try not to be a little bookish demons on your shoulder. Though I do invite all of you to be one for me, hehe.


    • Thanks Mark. I find it really easy, I have a spreadsheet with where all books are and newest stuff goes in release order on special shelves for work. I think the fact some of these come for work helps me to be more organised than I would normally. I love wading through all the books.

      I will happily be a bookish devil on anyones shoulder.

  11. I wish I had a library large enough that could even think of culling it! Already, my parents are reminding me that I should be getting rid of books (I only have 400) if I’m planning to move home (which I am). That’s never going to happen, so I shall have to think of some ingenious storage solutions. As I unfortunately do not live near ridiculously cheap used bookstores and people do not shower me with free books (I was in hospital in October and books would have been much preferred to flowers), my library only expands when I can convince myself that a book is worth a.) spending money on and b.) lugging around on my many moves. These criteria have definitely helped curb most impulse purchases. That said, I just placed an Amazon order for 5 books over the weekend…

    • Ignore you parents as a) thats one thing we must all do and b) they are just not being fair on their bookaholic child, its really as simple as that. Tell them they should be supportive, isnt that meant to work?

  12. Kinga

    I can’t get rid of books on my TBR. But, once I’ve read a book and am absolutely sure that I won’t read it again, then I dispose of it (usually via BookMooch). Books I’ve loved and adored stay on the shelves, mixed in with the TBRs. I love my TBR books and really look forward to reading them. Then again, my TBR list is a bit more manageable: stands today at around 190 books. If I had 600 plus, I might have to cull them, too. but you are brave. 🙂

    • I never got into Bookmooch Kinga, its just didnt work for me. I have also given up RISI as its ‘paying postage for books’ which goes against my resolution so now its friends and family getting all my lovely cast offs!

  13. Deb

    Sadly, my TBR pile (actually, about three piles, totaling approximately 300 books) is in no particular order and my method of choosing another book to read is much the same way: when I’m ready to start another book, I’ll take a gander at the pile and pull out the first one that grabs me. After I’ve read the book, if it’s a keeper, I put it in the “permanent collection”—shelves where fiction is in alphabetical order by author’s last name and non-fiction is…well, wherever I happen to put it. If, after reading, I decide a book is not a “keeper,” I put it in another further different pile for donating to the local Friends of the Library for their on-going books sales (there’s a certain symmetry in that because a large number of the books in my TBR pile originally came from a FOTL sale).

    Although I prefer to get books from the library and not add to my mountain of TBR books, I’m afraid the piles continue to grow and grow. As I tell my husband when he makes note of all the space the books are occupying, “Well, it’s better than ax murdering,” to which he replies, “Only just.”

    • I love the fact that when a book is finished you can wander and just pick what next from a whim, thats what reading is all about its a pleasure and if that means having a tiny TBR or a terrically tremendous TBR then its should all be embraced.

      The axe murdering comment has made me smile too.

  14. I love the advice “why cull just reassess”

    My TBR pile grew exponentially last year due to being a participating member in the cult otherwise known as book bloggers. However, it did not grow nearly as large as I would have liked, given the financial limitations of the household budget (even though I do live by the maxim – when I have money I buy books and if there is anything left over I buy food and clothes – Erasmus).

    I do try to “cull” about twice a year – but only books that I know I have no desire to read again (I tend not to receive too many ARCs, giveaways, etc) The vast majority of the books I purchase end up being books that I enjoy and wish to remain as a member of my literary family.

    • Why cull just reassess is definately the new Savidge Reads Motto even if it is stolen from some of my nearest annd dearest.

      Book blogging definitley has some responsibility for sooooo many purchases last year, that and 10p and 50p books.

  15. I’m expecting my first baby in April, and that was decision enough for us to clear out a LOT of books. I’m keeping quite a few in storage, but there are probably only 100 or so still in my house. It’s actually been incredibly liberating and I don’t have nearly the same tough time deciding what to read next.

  16. I am in the process of a cull of my own, simply because I have run out of bookcase room and need to get on top of the unread books that I own.

    I don’t keep track of how many books I have to-be-read; mentally I know which ones on my shelves haven’t been read yet and I know the books I want to read.

  17. I don’t do much culling of the TBR. It is really hard for me to do because at SOME point I must have been interested enough to acquire the book, right? So it worries me that I might get rid of books I would like.

    I am more likely to cull from books that I’ve already read, but that, too, is difficult for me to do. I just don’t like getting rid of books unless I KNOW they are going to a good home 🙂

    • Aarti that is soooo true ‘at somepoint I must have been interested enough’ in all these books hence why culling can be a little painful. I am trying to see it as pruning though, a new abundance will emerge.

  18. I thought I had a lot of TBR books! You make my mountain look like a small molehill (about 150 is all). I don’t like culling, but have no qualms about ditching books I’m not liking, so sometimes when I’m searching for the next read, two or three will get off the pile simply because I discover they’re really not for me- and immediately move on!

  19. Whenever I do a cull, excuse me, reassessment, I tend to get rid of the books that I bought just because they were cheap or new fiction impulse buys. The ones that tend to survive are the ones by trusted authors or recommended by trusted friends. I should remember this the next time I buy a book just because it is cheap. Of course I have found some great books that way…Once we have a house (fingers crossed in the next 6 months) I don’t think I will ever get rid of anything. I am planning lots and lots of shelf space.

    • Hahaha you are excused Thomas. I did a lot of bargain book buying last year and now most of them are back at the bargain place I bought them from. A vaulable lesson was learnt though.

      Hope the house all gets sorted very very soon.

  20. Susan in TX

    Your picture caption “no books were harmed in this process” made me laugh out loud! My current TBR pile is sitting at 218, which is an all time high, and I’m not even sure how it got there. It doesn’t help that my dh fully supports my habit. 🙂 My children are the same and all 3 of my girls have complained that they are running out of bookshelf space — their brother is offering to “rent them shelves” in his room (he is sadly outnumbered in our henhouse). One of my reading goals this year is to get the TBR below 100 – AND to read more than come in, which is obviously necessary to achieve the first. But every now and then I catch myself saying, “what difference does it make anyway?” I loved Susan Hill’s emphasis on the slow savoring of books, which again begs the question, “Why hurry?”
    Good for you for going through the process of culling,though — just think of all the people who will be thrilled to find your castaways at the thrift store!
    And, I have to agree…living in a library is a wondrous thing! 🙂
    Happy Reading!

    • Hoorah someone commented on the caption, I was waiting to see if it caught anyones eye and made them laugh. I have someone who doesnt support the habit but knows realistically that its never going to change. Renting sleves out is hilarious, how would that be of benefit, unless you are all under the same roof which I have just realised you are!

  21. Oh Simon… I hope you’re feeling strong about it, I’m not sure I could get rid of that many! I went through all my books in the summer, and disposed of about 25, but at least half of those were simply duplicates… I still have (pipe) dreams of my enormous book-filled house of the future, and don’t want to get rid of books before that. But I should think this year, for the first time since 2001, I’ll read more books than I buy – that’ll make a little bit of difference!

    • Its actually pretty much done Simon but thank you for the support. You saw some of the mighty tbr and amazingly werent shocked which was most endearing in fact you then added to it (friend for life). I was aiming to read more books than I bought, which I will as am buying none and reading plenty, I just wont have seen my TBR go down very much.

  22. Nicola

    According to my Library Thing I have 778 books to be read, so I sympathise completely with your predicament. I have, on occasion, got rid of a book or two that I bought on a whim and think I will never read, but on the whole I couldn’t really contemplate getting rid of a lot of my TBR pile that way. Tastes change and what I don’t fancy now I might really want to read in a year or two. Unfortunately, I have worked out that it would take me seven years to read my TBR pile if I didn’t acquire any more books!

    I have decided to cut down on my book buying and haven’t bought a book since Christmas – I feel strangely liberated by it.

    • Hoorah someone who has more books than me… I have been waiting all day and my prayers have been answered, Nicola you are a legend and one of my new best friends ha.

      I think my TBR would take me about 6 years to read… but then hopefully I have a good few more decades to go after that!

      • Nicola

        Yay! Always happy to oblige.

        I think we both know that we are not going to read our TBR piles in 6/7 years – can you imagine not acquiring another book for that long? That would surely be living hell!

      • Oh there is no way I will read all the books \I have in the next six or seven years but then hopefully we both have lots more reading years ahead of us than that!

  23. I cull every couple of months. It’s the only way to keep the books from overtaking my very pokey one-bedroom flat that has minimal storage space. Books go to friends/family or to my local Oxfam shop.

    I tend to keep books I’ve really loved, thinking I’ll read them again some day, but that’s few and far between. I’d say I probably only have 50 titles that fall into that category.

    Mind you, this doesn’t include the books I collect: Persephone and Penguin Modern Classics (both the white and silver editions).

    • I need to have more regular culls they have been six monthly and should be more like six a month!!

      I wish I could be as stringent with the books I keep after I have read them… I have just received some new shelving tyhough so am feeling like I dont need to be which is not the aim of the game!

  24. I haven’t got anything like 700 unread books at my house – I probably don’t even have 50! I guess I’m just really cautious about buying books, because I’m not settled at this point in my life, and every time I buy a book, I think: That’s one more book to pack next time I move. It is quite a deterrent.

    • I do think being settled is very much apart of why I felt able to acrue so many books! I will admit though moving last year was a nightmare… and it was only two flights up ha!

  25. Simon, my heart just sank seeing you give away so many books, and a lot of them good ones too.. I feel like you’re giving away your babies.. eek. But anyway, I do cull a lot too, because I want to be surrounded only by books that make me happy, not those that I hated or didn’t care for. I also hate clutter, and I consider books I don’t like as clutter. So brave of you to give up so much but hope it makes you happier. 🙂

    • It was tough but I do feel a little better, though I will be so cross if the next book group choice is one I gave away hahaha. With my job I had to be realisitic and say… hang on do I need all those books. Any I have been sent in the last year but havent read have stayed so I have a nice mix of contemporary and classic now which am loving!

  26. Lizzie

    My culling is conspicuously unsuccessful. Two or three books at the most each time and then only because they’re so yellow and dusty it makes me sneeze to open them.
    I rather like the “leave in a public place to delight someone with a surprise find” approach to disposal, though why anyone would faint with joy to find a yellowing, disintegrating copy of some heavily annotated text from “A” level days is another matter.

    • I love the idea of anything being conspicuously unsuccessful Lizzie, it made me chortle and am not sure why, I think I just like the sound of it.

      I think if I left my books in public my fear would be a cleaner would intervene and into the bin they would go.

  27. I don’t think I’ve gotten rid of any books that I’ve bought and haven’t read but I have gotten rid of ones that came to me in other ways but I honestly wasn’t going to read. Then I didn’t feel guilty each time I saw them sitting there and remembering where they came from.

    I used to not use the library and so over the past years, I bought books that I’m sure I will only read once so now those are going out as soon as they are read. I also have two separate lists of books that I’m interested in — one list that I actually want to own and a list for the library. This really helps keep down my intake too.

    • What do you mean came to you in other ways? I am most intrigued!!!

      I went off the library, this year I am embracing it and using it a lot more than ever before. Which sort of defeats the object of trying to get through more of my TBR but there you go!

      • True … if I stopped using the library, my book piles would definitely disappear much more quickly!

        By other ways I mean gifts or unsolicited review copies. 😉 I just didn’t want to be totally rude by saying “I get gifts of books I don’t like and then I get rid of them without reading them!”

      • Oops and I just made you say the very thing you didnt want to!!! Sorry!

  28. I have occasional mini-culls, mainly to free up space for more books! My last major cull was two years ago when my fiance moved in with me. He has about 300 books of his own, so I got rid of a couple of hundred books to make way. The cull conditions were:

    1. Any duplicates (I had ended up with 3 or 4 copies of some classics)
    2. Anything I’d read and really didn’t like
    3. Some university textbooks that I was never going to look at again
    4. Anything I knew deep down I was *never* going to read

    I gave some to my mum, some to friends, some to charity, and flogged a lot of the textbooks on Amazon Marketplace.

    My TBR is still several hundred though – and I’m unashamed! 🙂

  29. I just did a major cull back at my parents’ house, giving away some books but sadly having to bin the rest because of the tropical climate having damaged the rest. Of course I kept back all the books I loved so that I can re-read them every time I visit home. Of course I tell myself that doesn’t give me the green light to start restocking the shelves.

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