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On Getting Rid of Books

Jaime Herndon


Jaime Herndon finished her MFA in nonfiction writing at Columbia, after leaving a life of psychosocial oncology and maternal-child health work. She is a writer, editor, and book reviewer who drinks way too much coffee. She is a new-ish mom, so the coffee comes in extra handy. Twitter: @IvyTarHeelJaime

I love books. No surprise there, obviously. My small apartment, however, does not love books. Granted, since moving out of NYC, I have much more room – an entire apartment to myself! – than I used to…which, I admit, translates (most of the time) to “more room for books.” There’s even a small room, ostensibly for storage, that I have put bookcases in, and now houses a row of bookcases and a ton of stuff for my child’s impending arrival.

Given the upcoming arrival of said child, I have realized that – if he comes on time – I have five short weeks to make room for him. (And his books.) That’s five short weeks to also pare down my current at-home library. I have my core books that made the trip from NYC with me; these are books that I will not get rid of, ever. Classics from Salinger, Hurston, Lee, Plath, and Angelou. Books written by favorite professors of mine. Books written by mentors (ones I have met, and those I have not…yet). Then there are the books that I bought in preparation for a blizzard (I mean, I was at Target picking up food, so naturally, I bought a book, too), books bought online late at night, and ARCs that friends and review sites have sent me. Some I will likely keep, others I will pass on to friends who would enjoy them, and yet others, I will “sell” to a local used bookstore for store credit (to get…more books).

It’s never easy to cull from one’s library. More times than I care to admit, I’ve gotten rid of a book, only to buy it AGAIN months later, because I realized I have to own it, so I can read it whenever I like. Books are friends, they are comfortable memories to slip over your head when you want or need some solace. They provide guidance, advice, entertainment, distraction. They provide connection. How does one decide to part with something like this?

Some are easier than others. Yes, there are impulse buys that I never finished – these are easy to toss aside for someone else. But those are rare, thankfully. (Or not).

How do you decide which books to give away or sell, and which ones to keep? Are there some that you will never, ever give away?