Culling the herd (the herd of books, that is)

There’s no such thing as too many books.

Well, maybe there is. I wrote about this problem in a blog post five months ago — at this point it feels like five years, of course — when I resolved to do something about reducing my 4000 books to a more manageable number. I even determined a way of sorting them (a prerequisite for deciding which books to get rid of). Then I actually started to follow that recipe, involving making many piles of books on the floor of the den, but only for my fiction books — where it was necessary — as other less gigantic categories could benefit from less strenuous methods.

And then came the lockdown.

Since I’m semi-retired, you might think that I would have already had plenty of time for sorting and culling, but it doesn’t seem to work that way, psychologically speaking. The new regime gave me the impetus I needed, starting with the most urgent question, as described in this cartoon:

And now I’m almost done, ready for More than Words to pick up 24 boxes of books as soon as they can resume pickup from residences. This reduces my book count by 900 or so, actually exceeding my goal of a 20% reduction. (If you’re interested, I’ve completed my nine largest categories: fiction, math, linguistics, computer science, philosophy & religion, education, lit crit & essays, cartography & geography, and archaeology/anthropology. That leaves the nine categories in which I have the least number of books: in no particular order those are psychology & sociology, poetry & drama, Davidsons, history & economics, art & music, biography, humor, government & politics, and travel & local. You’ve noted that many of my categories are really unions of two sub-categories, FWIW.)

The process required sorting my books — first by category, then by author (or editor, for multi-author volumes) and then by title within fiction, or just by title alone in other categories. As a result, I now have bookshelves that look like this image, showing a section of my math category:

The current state of my books contrasts with the way things used to look, which more resembled the office of the wonderful Madeline Kripke, subject of a superbly written obituary in the New York Times :

Categories: Books