Choose fewer books

Now, let’s really rip the band-aid off.

Let’s choose fewer books.

First of all, I want you to know that I love books.

I read 24 books in less than three months to get a blackout in my local library’s summer reading bingo last year. I don’t fall asleep until I read for 10 minutes before bed.

My proudest reading achievement? My copy of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was literally falling apart.

Was — until I choose less and gave it to the great library in the sky.

Here’s the thing I started to realize about books.

Often, I’d read a book once and love it. I’d put it on my bookshelf, thinking it would be a reminder of what I learned from reading it.

I’ll read that book again someday, I told myself.

But, I rarely did. The few exceptions I can think of are the Lord of the Rings (2 reads), Marie Kondo’s book (3 reads), and Harry Potter (1,000,000+ reads).

Just about every other book sat on my shelf, collecting dust.

When I packed for a recent move, I got to hold them all again and be reminded of the memories, but then I had to haul them in heavy boxes, then take them back out of those boxes, and then put them on another shelf just to sit forever.

That’s no way to treat something I love!

I eventually realized that my books would have better lives out of my house for someone else to enjoy.

This was a really difficult realization, but one that has ultimately made me happier — and a better reader.

If you want to choose fewer books, here’s my recommendation on how:

You know what to do first. Get all of your books in a pile somewhere in your house, with garbage bags handy to sort them out into keep, donate, or trash.

Then, pick up each book and make the tough decision about whether or not you’re going to read it again.

I’m going to give it to you straight. It’s best to accept that you probably won’t. 

By donating the book, instead, someone else will get to experience the joy you felt while reading it. Keeping this in mind always helps me feel better donating. It mentally changes the act from getting rid of the book into gifting it to the world. 

For a book you have that you haven’t read but have been meaning to, donate that, too. If you haven’t read it during the months it’s been on your bookshelf, today is probably not going to be the day you finally crack it open. You can always get it again if you need to read it in the future.

Some books that are a little worse for wear can’t be donated. You might just have to put them in the recycle bin, like I had to with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Part of me died a little when I recycled it, but entire sections of pages weren’t bound anymore. Even if I wanted to read it, I wouldn’t be able to.

Once you’ve sorted everything, put the books you want to keep back onto your shelf. Find a place to donate the others — maybe a library, a school, or Goodwill.

Even though I've given away most books that I own (not even Harry Potter made the cut), I still read just as much as ever. I'm working through my nineteenth book this year.

And, I’ve opened up a lot of space in my house and also in my mind. I don’t have the persistent thought of, “I should really read that again…” and can better focus on what I’m already reading.

This post is adapted from a weekday newsletter I wrote in April 2018, Choose Less.