Why I decided to own less than 20 physical books

Why I decided to own less than 20 physical books

I love reading, and I read a lot during my school years, but I haven’t been reading much recently. I read almost any book that I am recommended, and am open to most genres. Like music, I give all books a chance. Recently, though, I have enjoyed reading about design, web development, business, and product development – non-fiction books, over fiction ones.

One of the last fiction novels I tried to read (on my old iPad) was Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson. It must have been about three years since I tried to read it, but I found the content so boring, and discovered that I possibly didn’t like political-style science fiction very much anymore. It took me six months to struggle through 300 of the 600 pages. It was a defining moment in my reading, because since then, I don’t remember reading many more novels until I discovered non-fiction.

I got my first iPad about four years ago and was addicted to reading books on it. I am not sure if I prefer a physical book, but nothing about them bothers me, and reading off a screen doesn’t bother me either. Perhaps I don’t like carrying around a six-hundred-page book (and I don’t mind those) on my travels, but I am happy to sit down and read one.

However, the day came when I looked at my physical books and decided that… it was time. It was time to let some of them go.

The History of the Library and the Notion of the Pre-loved

I had a dream to own as many books as I could. I was a fan of many authors and many series and wanted to own a lot of books so I would have a visible collection. But what my ‘collection’ consisted of was about two hundred books which I liked, but I didn’t love every single one.

Books are expensive to buy. Even though I love to read and used to love purchasing used books, many of these books eventually stopped being read or touched. Even if I read the books two or three times, the books simply took up space.

I liked to make use of the local library to find books to read. As Manda recently discovered, having a library card gives you free access to an absolute plethora of books that you can simply borrow and feel zero obligation to keep or find space for.

As I loved to buy pre-loved books because of their affordable price, I knew that my books wouldn’t go to waste because someone else would love my books.

With all these things in mind, I went through my bookshelf and picked out the books that weren’t my favourites, and posted a list online in case anyone wanted to buy any.

Finding a better home for the books

I was able to give a handful of my books to Seb, who found some books from my collection that he wanted to read and own a copy of. Further than that, here is a list of things I did to get the best homes for my books.

  • I called up local libraries to see if they were interested in taking my books. Some did not accept (even though I didn’t want money!), and required someone to go through the titles because they were picky about what they wanted.
  • I asked second hand bookshops. This was a similar situation to the library. They only took certain titles, but it’s still worth asking because you may get lucky.
  • I donated to charity. Vinnies and the Salvation Army were happy to take some of these for free. You might have something similar in your area.
  • A donation bin may accept books. These were fitting for children’s books in particular.
  • You could have a garage sale to sell your books either individually or in bulk.
  • You can use classifieds like Gumtree or Craigslist to sell your books in bulk and someone in your area can pick them up.
  • You can try selling them on Facebook or social media as well, which seems to be quite common these days.

It was difficult letting go of books that I had spent money on, but knowing that they had good homes made me feel much better. Knowing that I had spent time reading them and enjoyed having them was enough to let them go without regret. I also knew that if I wanted to read a book again, I didn’t have to own the book. I could borrow a friend’s. Or borrow the library’s.

I could even buy an e-book to have a digital copy. You can possibly get a PDF if you don’t have an e-book reader. Although I didn’t have a physical copy, I was still able to re-experience the feeling I got from reading the book itself.

A shelf of favourites

Don’t get me wrong, cleaning out my two hundred books took me about two years. It must have been about two years ago that I gave Seb those books. After that, I was able to realise what my favourite books were. Every time someone asked for a book recommendation, I would recommend a handful of books, and I owned all of them in a physical copy. Those were my favourites, and the ones that I decided to keep. I got rid of any other books.

If I didn’t feel like a book was worth recommending or raving about, or if I felt like some were worth talking about more than others, then they were favourites and others were not.

I had two shelves of favourite books until I cut it down to one.

A list of the books I currently own

These are the eighteen physical books I currently own, in alphabetical order by author. I can easily say that some of these are my favourites, or they bring back memories because of where I bought them.

  1. The Book of Tomorrow, Cecelia Ahern
  2. One Hundred Names, Cecelia Ahern
  3. The Time of My Life, Cecelia Ahern
  4. Black Hearts, Arlene J Chai
  5. And Another Thing…, Eoin Colfer
  6. Brother Fish, Bryce Courtenay
  7. Matthew Flinders’ Cat, Bryce Courtenay
  8. The List of My Desires, Gregoire Delacourt
  9. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
  10. Fortunately, The Milk, Neil Gaiman
  11. The Ocean at the End of The Lane, Neil Gaiman
  12. Mother of Pearl, Melinda Haynes
  13. The Earthquake Bird, Susanna Jones
  14. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
  15. The Pilot’s Wife, Anita Shreve
  16. Sun At Midnight, Rosie Thomas
  17. The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
  18. The Messenger, Markus Zusak

My collection of eighteen physical books
My collection of eighteen physical books
There are some books that I consider my favourites, but I don’t own physical copies of them. It doesn’t mean I like them any less. I still remember that they are my favourites.

Have you ever tried to pare down the amount of books you have? What strategies do you have to declutter your books?

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Comments on this post

Girl, I’m horrible about de-cluttering my bookcase. However, now that I’m transitioning more into ebooks for non-mangas/comics books, I decided to get rid of the ones except for the very few I’ll keep because I know they aren’t out as ebook yet, and it may never come out in digital format. So now I have I think under 30 books, and like 203802382 mangas LOL. I also have like 130+ BSC books, but I’ll be getting rid of those soon since I’ve been slowly getting the digital ones.

It’s funny. I like physical books, and I grew up on physical books, but ever since I started reading on my Kindle, I now only want to read on that instead of the physical books. Of course that has its own pros and cons, but the pros outweighs most of the cons for me.

The pros outweigh the cons for me too. It was difficult letting go of physical books, but with a portable, easy and cheaper option, I gave in. :P But as I said, I still love a physical book, it’s just that growing a collection isn’t something I am interested in anymore.

I left a lot of my books back home when I moved away for graduate school because I was too lazy to pack, but at the same time, I wanted to leave them behind for a fresh start. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance to really purchase as many books as I’d like or even enjoy. In efforts to be more minimalistic, I should probably not buy too many physical books and invest in an ebook reader like a Kindle and start a Kindle library of my own. So far, I only have 5 novels in my shelf and 15 textbooks. It’s ridiculously sad.

That’s the way I am thinking too. Unfortunately reading is not one of my priorities anymore and I am also trying to be minimalistic. I have few physical books but I don’t have many e-books either.

I think it’s great that you were able to do this and keep the ones that meant the most to you!

Recently I have been in a very similar situation. I had over 1000 books. So many of these were ones that I had been given or I purchased either at book stores or second hand stores. A lot of them I wouldn’t really read or had read. I still have them stored, but I plan to either have a garage sale or donate them to charity shops. Most books I now read on my iPad and I really like being able to do it that way because it saves so much space and in the end, it is the story that is the most important.

Being able to look at your bookshelf and see your favourite books and the ones that inspire you is a really cool thing. :D

A thousand books is a lot! I am sure you will find new owners for your books. Someone would love adding those to their physical library!

I haven’t bought a physical book in years because I read on my Kindle now. It’s much more practical as it’s easier to carry in my handbag or take on holiday with me than a book, and it also saves space in the flat because I don’t have to store physical books. However, I think there are some books that are just meant to be read in physical form, like cook books and photography books.

We have a place in Liverpool where you can donate old books called Healthy Planet Books for Free. Basically their mission is to give books away for free rather than binning them and sending them to landfill. So you can go in, pick a couple of books and walk out with having to pay for them. I love it, and I’ve found some real gems in there.

Cook books and photography books – I definitely agree with you on that point. Some things just don’t feel right if you can’t turn physical pages.

That is awesome! I guess it works like a free library too? You could pick a few, read them, and return them to the same place since someone else might want it for free too. xD

Hi there Georgie! It’s been a looong time. I hope you still know me! *wink/wink*

Congratulations on successfully decluttering your books into less than 20! :D

I feel so guilty reading your post. When I went on my work assignment in Ireland, I bought lots of books as my *retail therapy*. Haha! I was thinking at the back of my mind that I would want a mini-library (haha) in my room. I have a long way to go! :(

I still have to make time & declutter mybookshelf. It still houses my old school books! Hah! OTL

Hi Luna! Ah, of course I remember you, and moonlitskies. ;) Thank you for the lovely comment! I think we all fall into the retail therapy trap. My weakness is jewellery, while yours just happens to be books. If you decide to get rid of those old books and cut down to just a few – good luck!

Carrying 600+ page books (or a thick book) can be such a hassle! Especially for school too, I can’t stand a heavy backpack and prefer everything in pdf. Books ARE expensive @___@. I remembered seeing some for $30 and I question if I even want to read anymore XD. Wow, the library is picky about donated books? It’s great that you found several ways to find your books a new home :).

A few years ago, I decided to tone down the number of books on the shelves at home. Most were children’s book because my school gave them away for free. I just tossed them into the donation bin XD. As for now, I only buy books when I have to and when possible, find/buy a PDF version.

I feel that way too. Books cost a lot of money and that is part of the reason why I prefer to read digitally. I feel like I am spending so much on something that I will read once and not really use after that. I don’t really like to buy things that I won’t use regularly.

Yeah I was very surprised that our local library didn’t simply accept donations, but at least the books didn’t just go in the bin.

I don’t actually own a large amount of books myself – but my boyfriend does. Our joint bookshelf currently hold about a thousand books, which is really a lot. We’ve tried cleaning it out and giving away books again and again – altogether, I think we already gave away about 200 books. But somehow, it never gets less.

These days I usually just get an e-book if I want to read something, except in two cases:
1) If it’s a book by Neil Gaiman, I will buy a physical copy.
2) If it’s a book I’m reading for university, I will also buy a physical copy. I’ve tried ebooks for uni, but it’s really annoying because you can hardly ever find the page the lecturer told you to open and it’s also easier to find bookmarked pages.

But actually, the latter won’t matter anymore, since I’m almost done studying anyway – only one more semester, in which I will only read graphic novels!

I loved getting rid of my textbooks when I graduated. My parents kept a lot of my old primary and high school books as well. They took up unnecessary space and I wanted to get rid of them. I had studied a lot of science, whereas in university I studied communication and interactive multimedia, so the books were completely useless to me.

I also didn’t like trying to find pages digitally during lectures so having physical copies was definitely better in that case. :) Books and physical copies are definitely better in some situations.

I wish I could do the same, but a lot of my books are historical nonfiction and a lot of them are very old, and sometimes they aren’t on digital form. But there is something about collecting books still that gives me joy. Of course, I now only have a small collection at the duplex, but a larger one at my in-laws which I am going to go through.

Though, newer books or popular ones I get on my tablet and etc; I don’t mind ebooks either. I never understood the fight against them. I admit that I was part of that problem, but now, I have no problem with ebooks. I think they are perfectly valid in my opinion.

Books like that are worth holding onto. :) Going completely digital isn’t always the desired route. E-books have the advantage of being portable and cheaper, and for some people that is a good enough reason, but for others, it doesn’t mean that they want to let go of their collections.

I am a bookworm as well. I tend to have lots of books and I don’t know where else to place them ahaha. I bought one bookshlef but i was not enough haha. That is why i decided to put my favorites on display and sold the others at a book bazaar. haha

I definitely admire you for being able to let go of your books! I love owning physical copies of books and I imagine myself having a nice shelf that would feature a bunch of books that I have come to love. Hehe T_T

I’m not particularly materialistic, but I love books. I have hundreds (perhaps a couple thousand). My memory works differently from most people’s so I know what the vast majority of those books are and where I left them. I have strong memories attached to most of them. Still, I suppose it’d be fair to say that they’re one of my vices even though I don’t keep everything I read…

I was a fan of the Kindle before it came out and when it was officially announced, I was so excited. I bought one immediately. I love reading on e-readers and strongly prefer it to reading most physical books. However, despite being a serious lover of books, I hate the thought of rereading anything and always have, so for me, and this is going to sound incredibly horrible given your de-cluttering, I thought that for books I care about, I would get both the physical and digital versions – then put the physical versions on a shelf without ever really reading them because while I prefer reading digitally, I’d still want to keep physical reminders given that the books themselves are beautiful or stories I love. Adding to my vices, while I like the ambiance libraries provide, I have never been a fan of used books or libraries as a source of books.

The thought of only owning 20 books physically pains me, lol, but I’d have no similar problem de-cluttering my clothes, make up, jewelry, etc. I hate clutter. Books to me, though, are like photographs (because they hold memories about myself, my family, and their own stories) and artwork because some editions are beautifully crafted. I like being surrounded by memories in a physical way, so it would be very hard for me to give them up.

I find the way you feel about books very interesting. I have no problem with pre-loved books or libraries but I know I don’t put as much value in them compared to if they were my own. I love books for their stories and how I feel about them or why I love them, so having a physical copy is a nice reminder indeed. Do you mean that you don’t reread anything at all? I suppose I don’t like the idea either, but the reason I did end up rereading some of my books was out of boredom or because I didn’t have anything new to read.

I don’t think I have felt as connected to a book as you do – there are some I obviously really love but I also own a lot of other things (like photographs themselves) that serve as physical reminders of personal memories.

Yes, I like reading and I read a lot, but I do not reread books for fun. Maybe I’ve done it once or twice, but I doubt even that because I dislike it so much. It’s hard for me to explain; it’s just something I don’t do and have never done because I can’t stand it. (I’m the same with films too) ^^; If I don’t have a new book, I won’t read anything. The books I have, I know, and rereading doesn’t help me remember anything or know them any better and it’s mind-numbingly boring so I don’t do it.Thus, I collect things I don’t need. ^^; But I do feel emotionally attached and the best way that I can think to describe them is as photographs (I just look at them and all of the memories come back).

I used to have a bookshelf (wall to ceiling length) FILLED books, and even then it wasn’t enough space. Now I’ve got ~25 physical books in my collection, and I want to pare that down even more. Maybe to like… 5? I just prefer them in ebook format for ease of use/travel. Sacrilegious, I know, but… well, practicality wins this one!

I have a lot of childhood books, which I am keeping for the future. Other than those I think I have just the harry potter collection, hunger games, and three more books. I used to just borrow them from the library because purchasing books can be expensive. Now a days my selves are filled with software design books, and various textbooks from courses. I keep the ones I know are timeless and I can reference in the future. I admire that you have read so many books. I find it really hard to find a book I like and can get into.

When I was growing up, I wanted to be a librarian or work in a bookshop haha. I struggle with getting rid of books. I still have some of my childhood favourites. I bought a Kindle a few years ago and used that for a bit cos I was struggling to find space to store physical books. I used that for a couple of years but have gone back to physical books now. I missed being to hold a physical book and flip through the pages.

Sounds lame, but I took photos of some of my childhood books before I got rid of them. I knew I wasn’t really going to re-read them. When I think about them I can tell an interesting story about how much I loved a certain book because they are etched into my memory. There is one called Sixth Grade Secrets by Louis Sachar that I read over and over and over again. Makes me laugh, I remember the story so well and I tell people it was one of my favourite childhood books.

I just remembered that I still have a little picture book called The Little Red Hen that I used to love reading in primary school. It was one of the first books I read. It’s still sitting somewhere at home. :P

I’m honestly not sure how many books that I currently own – I do know that I prefer having a physical copy of a book to having one on a Kindle or another tablet-type device. I also know that I’ve such a hard time getting rid of any of them – luckily the Library in my hometown is really good at taking them. If they don’t fit the requirements, they’ll add them to the book sale so they can get books and other things for the library itself.

As for keeping books, I’ve a hard time imagining myself cuddled up with any future children reading to them from anything but an actual book. I’d be scared of dropping the tablet on them – because I don’t know about you but I constantly drop my tablet…mainly on my face. I’m actually surprised that I’ve not ended up with a bloody nose or a black eye because of this. :D

My local library used to have book sales but not anymore. I guess they are more focused on adding new books to the library. I haven’t been there in a while.

I can understand in a situation like that it would be lovely to sit down with a physical book that is perfect for bedtime stories! If I am lying on my back sometimes I drop my phone on my face, too, but to be honest that hasn’t happened in a while. I must be getting used to it. :P

I have been a bibliophile for as long as I remember. But because I used to buy too many books at a time till about 7 years back, my mom made a rule that if I wanted to read, I should join a library or go for second hand book stores to whom you can return the books once you are done reading. That’s what I have been doing ever since, I spend about 80 to 100 rupees a month for a couple of books max and read them and return them back or I borrow them from friends and read them.
I can go on on this topic for ever i think, so I’ll make a blog post out of it :D

But, but, books have that book smell that you can’t get from a digital copy! Yes, I know the smell comes from old, dirty pages but still. Haha. I’ve pared down my book collection a lot but it still takes up shelves of my bookcase and 1 under the bed storage box… I’ve kept the majority of the non fiction books, got rid of a load load of cook books I never use and kept anything by Stephen King.