Notes on Downsizing a Tiny Library
“Gandhi was discovering the power of simplification and renunciation. He stumbled onto a truth widely know by yogis: Every time we discerningly renounce a possession, we free up energy that can be channeled into the pursuit of dharma. Thoreau discovered precisely this same principle at Walden, where he gradually pared away every possession that was not absolutely necessary ... and where he experienced the same resulting increase in energy that Gandhi did.”
—Stephen Cope, The Great Work of Your Life
I used to have an extensive personal library, but I no longer keep lots of books on my shelf because giving books to friends, the library, or a used bookstore brings me joy. With that being said, I love reading books, and I love buying books because supporting fellow authors is important to me. Books continuously flow into and out of my life.
For example, last weekend I gave roughly 20 books to Zephyr Books & Coffee because I’m preparing for our upcoming move to Chico, CA in August. The books left in my personal library are pictured above, and I'll probably donate half those books to Zephyr before we move.
As I sorted through my tiny library last weekend, I asked myself the following questions:
Will I reread this book?
Will I reference this book again?
Does the book bring me joy?
Asking myself the questions above helped me decide what books to donate and what books to keep. If you’re thinking about pairing down your personal book collection, I hope the questions above will help you.
In Read Books and then Give Them Away my friend Courtney Carver said, "I know it feels hard, but let go of your books and make room for more reading, adventure, and discovery. If you aren’t ready to make the leap, test the waters. Box up all of your books and hide them. Only read new or borrowed books for a few months, and then think about letting go."
I couldn't agree more!
PS: I wrote about this topic in 2010 and 2011. The essays are older, but still relevant: