Too Many Books?


One of my favorite literary websites is LitHub. It’s smart, clever and full of important, insightful book news, very often news you can use.  The editors at LitHub aggregate current interesting pieces from other important sites as well as create their own original bookish journalism, criticism and writing advice.

I want to share a recent piece from the site that is heartrending for any book lover: an essay on the difficulty of reducing the size of one’s personal library.  We’ve all been there, stymied by the threat of books completely overwhelming our very living space.  Such a situation always requires painful decisions and soul searching.  Our love for books has become out-sized, perhaps even an addiction or a type of hoarding. Oh my. So periodically we have  tortured days of reckoning in our book rich lives.

On the Heartbreaking Difficulty of Getting Rid of Books

Summer Brennan Attempts Marie Kondo’s Approach to Tidying Up Her Library

Like a lot of avid readers, I enjoyed Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up but bristled when it came to the section about books. The gist of her now-famous method is this: go through all your possessions by category, touch everything, keep only that which “sparks joy,” and watch as your world is transformed. It seems simple enough, but Kondo gives minimalism the hard sell when it comes to books, urging readers to ditch as many of them as they can. You may think that a book sparks joy, she argues, but you’re probably wrong and should get rid of it, especially if you haven’t read it yet.

Paring down one’s wardrobe is one thing, but what kind of degenerate only wants to own 30 books (or fewer) at a time on purpose? What sort of psychopath rips out pages from their favorite books and throws away the rest so they can, as Kondo puts it, “keep only the words they like?”

For those of us for whom even the word “book” sparks joy, this constitutes a serious disconnect. Still, as the weather gets warmer, many readers will tackle their spring cleaning with The Life-Changing Magic in hand.

I wondered, can Kondo’s Spartan methods be adapted for someone who feels about books the way the National Rifle Association feels about guns, invoking the phrase “cold dead hands”? I decided to give it a try.

Following her instructions, I herded all of my books into one room and put them on the floor. There were more than 500, ranging from books I’d been given as a small child to advance review copies of novels I’d received within the last week. Somehow they did not appear as numerous as one would expect. They looked vulnerable and exposed when stacked up in this way, out of context, like when the TSA zips open your suitcase at the airport. But that is the point of the KonMari method—to force us to see our possessions under the fluorescent light of disorientation.

Oh, I thought, scanning tattered paperbacks and long-forgotten class-assigned texts.

Oh. …. [Read the rest here]

About Margaret Jean Langstaff

A lifelong critical reader with literary tastes, a novelist, short story writer, essayist, book critic, and professional book editor for many years. A consultant to publishers and authors, providing manuscript critiques and a full range of editorial services. A friend and supporter of all other readers and writers. A collector of signed modern first editions. Animal lover and tree hugger. Follow me on Twitter @LangstaffEditor
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12 Responses to Too Many Books?

  1. lahowlett says:

    Heresy! I freely admit that I’m a hoarder when it comes to books but I’m ONLY that way about books. Nothing else. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • LeeAnn, We are soul sisters in this. Parting with a book, even one that’s sat on a shelf unread for years, is practically impossible for me. The only ones that have left are those I’ve loaned to friends that were never returned 🙂


  2. bowmanauthor says:

    Great information, Margaret!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. dgkaye says:

    I loved this, ‘A book can wait a thousand years to be read’.
    A beautiful article in tribute to books.
    I’ve moved often, and every time I pack up my 500 or so books, I find something old tucked inside one of them, almost like a time capsule. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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