How many books?

How many books should one keep? Minimalmark has just ten but I don’t think I could ever get there!


When we last moved house I had seventeen boxes of books – and 95 percent were mine even though I hadn’t bought any fiction books for the last twelve years, and I don’t keep fiction books that I have read.

The problem is I get given books, and I still have relics from an earlier phase of buying  second hand books from the Lifeline Book Fair. But my real weakness is buying nonfiction. I love art books, gardening books, nature books and books about sustainability. All my nonfiction books have been read several times and some get referred to constantly. Although if I’m honest some are not really used that much at all.

So how does a book lover get rid of books? For me fiction is easy – give the book away once its been read. I keep a list of the books I have read – and have done since I was seventeen. One tiny notebook with dates, authors and tiles in my scrawly handwriting takes up a lot less space than the five hundred or so books that I have read in that time, but it still brings back the memories. If it’s a book I really like I pass it on to a friend, while the rest go a charity shop.

To deal with the back log of fiction books that I haven’t read I have come up with a new rule – keep no more than six months worth of unread books or no more than 12 books.

Non-fiction is much harder – because it’s not easy to know when you might want to reread the book, and I do reread a lot. I’ve concluded that the only solution is a finite space for books – ie one shelf or one bookcase. Fill this space with your most favourite books – whatever doesn’t fit the space goes. It’s brutal but effective!

Do you have trouble getting rid of books?

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