mnmlist: minimalist books

Yes, books. I know for many of us, getting rid of possessions is an attractive prospect … but not books! Books are sacred.

Right?

Well, maybe. I love books as much as anyone. I love them in a physical way, with certain pleasure-inducing parts of my brain being activated by the smell, feel, look of books, new and used. I love browsing through bookstores for hours, discovering new worlds at every turn. I love cuddling up with them in the morning, or right before bed, escaping from reality for a little while. I love talking about books, reading about them, surrounding myself with them.

But I’m learning to let go of the need to possess them for any substantial length of time. This has been a slow process. At first, I’d cull my fairly large collection of books by taking 10 or 20 here and there, and donating them or selling them to used bookstores. Then I got more aggressive and got rid of a lot, limiting myself to one (long) bookshelf. (Admittedly, the bookshelf extended itself as I stacked books below the shelf and then double stacked books, but it was progress, for me.)

Recently, I’ve decided to go even further. I’m rounding up all the books I’ve been keeping “just in case” — in case I want to read them again, or refer to them, or if I decide to get back into triathlons or marathons or whatever I used to be obsessed with. I’m planning to have a reader give-away of many of these books soon.

My new rule is pretty minimalist: If I don’t plan on reading the book in the next 6 months, it’s out. And I’m going to be realistic about how much I’ll actually read — one every two weeks at most.

If we learn to let go of this need to hold onto books, here’s a better approach, a more minimalist and saner way to live with books:

  • Massively purge yourself of your books. It’ll be difficult at first, but trust me: it’s also massively liberating.
  • Check books out from the library. My library isn’t great (here on Guam) but when I move to S.F. this summer, I plan to make the S.F. public library my biggest bookshelf ever.
  • When you’re done with a book you own, let it go. Give it to a friend to enjoy. Donate it to charity. Sell it to a used bookstore so you can read another book.
  • Start a book-sharing group with your friends. Swap books you really enjoyed. You’ll save money and shelf space.
  • Only keep on your shelf the books you’re going to read in the next 6 months. No more.

Edit: Of course, there’s always the option of getting an ebook reader such as the Kindle or Apple’s long-rumored tablet computer. Then you’ll only have one device with possibly thousands of books. It’s an option I’ll probably move towards soon, as I decide what ebook reader I want. Maybe by the end of this year.