"Books You Can Live Without" asks several famous writers how they decided to clear out their libraries. Shorter version: (1) books I'm never going to read again; (2) outdated reference books; (3) books I'm tired of pretending that I'm going to read some day.
In a fit of cleaning not long ago, I did a version of this and got rid of a bunch of books, though not without a few pangs. Some I took to the used bookstore to be traded in for store credit (so I can buy more books, of course!) and some I took to Goodwill. Some, sadly, I couldn't even give away: I had to leave copies of old textbooks in the "Free" bin at the bookstore. I usually put them out on the Free Books table on campus, but I wasn't on campus this semester.
I needed to think about each book, but some were easier to chuck than others.
- Fodor's London 1992, from my in-laws' trip there? Other old reference books? Gone immediately.
- 10+ years of a print run of a journal now online? Gone.
- A couple of books of highly elaborate and stylishly difficult postmodern contemporary fiction from 10+ years ago that I bought from the bargain bin, never got around to reading, and have never heard about since? Gone to the bookseller's. Apparently they were neither pleasurable enough to read nor absorbing enough in a literary sense to make the effort of reading them worthwhile. Who am I kidding? If I need to read them--well, that's what libraries are for.
- Some ancient books of criticism--you know, the kind that talk appreciatively and in general terms about "innate female modesty and reticence" and "robust nature imagery"--that I picked up from a Free Books shelf when some equally ancient professors were retiring--gone.
- The one book I ever bought in the How I Went to Tuscany, Fixed Up an Old House, and Learned about Life from the Quaint Italians series or whatever that genre of book is called. I bought it in an airport one time but even a long plane ride couldn't make me get through it. This one--gone without a backward glance. Let's just say I never bought another book about privileged white women Finding Themselves while Learning Life's Heartwarming Truths from the Simple, Close-to-the-Earth People of Another Culture.*
*[In case it isn't obvious, I think the whole idea is highly insulting to other cultures.]