The Keeper Shelf

Last week I blogged about books I don’t finish; this week I’d like to talk about the opposite.

I have a problem that’s probably pretty common to the Riskies and our guests. Too many books, not enough bookshelves, despite the fact that there’s book storage in every room of our house except for the bathrooms (hmm… no, maybe not a good idea.) Since it’s unthinkable to stop the incoming flow, some books must go. I recently forced myself to go through this annual decluttering exercise.

To the donation pile:

  • Books I didn’t enjoy.
  • Books I got at a conference over three years ago, still haven’t gotten to, and aren’t somehow calling me to hold onto them.
  • Duplicates–too many of them!

Keeper shelf items:

  • Books I love so much I can’t part with them.
  • Classics and useful reference books.
  • Personally autographed copies.
  • Books by favorite authors or recommended by friends, or with truly intriguing blurbs, that I will get to someday.
  • Books by favorite authors that I didn’t love, but merely enjoyed. Somehow I feel disloyal parting with them. Or is that I like to keep a collection together?

The keeper shelves are still pretty full. My TBR list is enormous and growing daily. It made me wonder. Why keep a book if I may never reread it?

But the answers came. I do get to TBR books. Eventually. With books I’ve already read, I do often share them with friends, and I may share them with my children when they’re older. Very good reasons to hold onto these treasures.

So how about you? What makes a book a keeper? Do you clean out now and then?

And oh, yes, any suggestions for the best places to donate a boxfull of books of mixed genres, largely romance?

LADY DEARING’S MASQUERADE, Romantic Times Best Regency of 2005!

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Cara King
16 years ago

Why would you ever want to get rid of books? 🙂

Books are our decorating scheme. When looking for apartments (and, last time, a condo) our number one criterion was wall space for bookcases. It took our realtor a little time to catch on, but she finally did. No, we didn’t want large rooms, high ceilings, lovely open plans. We wanted walls. So now we have space for most of our thousands of books.

Um, obsessive? Yes.

And we still have a storage space.

Todd and I, before the last time we moved cross-country, tried to cull books. Honestly. We tried. Hard. But out of thousands of books, we culled about twelve. Useless, really. 🙂

So, what makes a book a keeper? (Beside that it’s a book?) Oh, you mean keeper. Well, I generally love something about it. Such as:

Great Humor (e.g. certain books by Joan Smith, Barbara Metzger, Jennifer Crusie, Ellen Emerson White, Meg Cabot, Georgette Heyer, Edward Eager, E. Nesbit.)

Great Character(s) (e.g. Bujold’s Vorkosigan books, Little Women, etc.)

Great Everything (e.g. lots of Diana Wynne Jones, Jane Austen)

Beauty (e.g. some Susan Cooper, DW Jones, Ursula LeGuin, Tolkien)

Joy (e.g. Noel Streatfeild, Edward Eager, etc)

Catharsis (e.g. Carla Kelly, Ellen Emerson White, Bujold)

Intellectual Stimulation (e.g. some Heinlein and other SF, Shakespeare, etc)

Okay, this is getting way out of hand! Sorry!

Cara (who needs to learn moderation)

Diane Perkins
16 years ago

Elena, you sound way more organized than I am. I do try to pare down. I much more readily give away books I get at conferences, because I’ve learned what I will read and will not. And I eventually take a good look at my TBR pile.
I have a lovely collection of old traditional regencies a friend rescued from an elderly lady’s house a few years ago. I have to keep them.
How many of you double shelve? Shelving books in front of other books? And then stack books in the space above them??

Cara King
16 years ago

Me, me, me, Diane! I double shelve, and also stack books on top. I do this with paperbacks, though I don’t do it much with hardbacks (not yet, anyway.) And I put books on the very tops of bookcases…and I have some large file drawers that have also been colonized by books. 🙂


Megan Frampton
16 years ago

Oh, I double-, and triple-shelve. I’ve got two twin towers of romance, taller than I am, and in front of those (those are the keeper towers), I’ve got another stack. Plus knee-high piles in front of the bookshelves, and they are double-shelved.

Elena, I give my books to the local hospital–the first time I walked in with a box, they gave me a big fish-eye, probably thinking I had a box full of literary fiction or something (my neighborhood is full of l.f. readers). When I told them it was all romance, they were so excited! I’ve been back a few times with boxes, and each time they tell me how much the patients appreciate the donations.

16 years ago

We’ve always donated to the local library about twice a year (1-2 book boxes each time), and they then chose to keep them or sell them in a “support the library” fundraiser. Now that we’ve moved to a place with more bookshelf room, the library won’t be seeing us for a while.

16 years ago

I keep the books I imagine I might read again. Since I also stack and double shelve, I am obviously not as discriminating as I should be.

When I lived in England I gave books to the local charity shops.

Amanda McCabe
16 years ago

My dream is to have floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in every room of my house some day. Then I can take books out of the storage tubs and put them where I can actually FIND them when I need them. 🙂 I definitely double (and triple) shelve, and stack books on top, and pile them on the floor. I have, at last count, 4 books on my bedside table and 2 in my tote bag that I’m reading.

I try to clean out once in a while–but I did the same as you, Cara, when I moved. I culled all of 4 books to get rid of. Sigh. But I did recently clean out lots of paperbacks and donated them to a local retirement home. My criteria for a romance “keeper” is: will I re-read it? (Like Kinsale and Loretta Chase). Is it signed to me, or written by a friend and therefore a book that will eventually be signed to me? (Diane, I have several of your books you will be forced to autograph next time I see you!). Did it have some aspect I find intriguing and want to “study”? I also have a large box full of trads I have stockpiled for the future. I’m just a book pack-rat I guess!

Elena Greene
16 years ago

To answer Diane’s questions, yes, I double shelve a lot of my books.

Wall-to-wall bookshelves sound like a great idea, but my husband (who doesn’t share my obsession with books) might not go for it. My daughters are making me proud, though. We may win him over yet! 🙂

Janet Mullany
16 years ago

Here’s a suggestion–donate your excess books to the New Orleans library system. They’ll either add them to the collection or sell them. You’ll have to pay to ship the books (I think you can write this off on your taxes, but don’t take my word for it) and the cheapest way to do so is to use UPS ground, specifying document shipment for the best rate. More info here:


16 years ago

The only books I ever give away are the few at times that I just didn’t like. Otherwise, I have lots of books around. Right now it isn’t bad, they are in boxes because sometimes this year, hopefully before the end of it, (hee, hee) we’re going to be moving. Don’t have a location just yet, but looks like Pittsburgh will be it. Anyway, so we have some things that we don’t use much in boxes. So a lot of my books (all my science, maybe 2/3 of my romances give or take) are in boxes. But I have easy access to them because I always end up going into them again. LOL But I do have a couple of shelves there that I refer to as “the books that I really, really, really, really loved”. So I can get to them if I want to read them again, or I can pack them in one box so if I’m bored once we get to wherever we get to I can at least get to those. But boy do I wonder how it’ll look once I take them all out. But as a whole, I still won’t get rid of any. Sure, over time I’ve given away ones that I ended up not reading (like the high school, some college required stuff), and I’m sure over time I’ll do that with some of my romances, but as a whole, They’re MINE!!! LOL 🙂


Cara King
16 years ago

I love Pittsburgh, Lois! I lived there one year, in Squirrel Hill, and it was great.

Books are great. They do make your luggage heavy, though! And they can make moving into sheer hell. But then again, once you move, you have an all-new set of bookstores to check out! 🙂


16 years ago

I pretty much follow the rules you’ve laid out, Elena. Yes, I double shelf them. I also keep those hard to find or out of print books I’ve been able to get my hands on. Now, I’ve discovered a UBS which is great for getting my hands on older books. No matter how many books I get, I inevitably keep a good half of them and return home with double what I left home with.

My dream house has a library with a big leather chair and fireplace. My favorite scene from ‘Beauty & The Beast’ is when he gifts her with that gorgeous library!! Sigh!

16 years ago

Books are our decorating scheme.

Amen! Books everywhere. I have lots of keepers. OMG!

Jenny Rappaport
16 years ago

Oooh, I went to college in Pittsburgh… Carnegie Mellon University, to be exact. Although the city isn’t my favorite to get around in, largely due to my lack of a car while there, it’s definitely got nice charms. Be sure to check out the original Carnegie Library down in Oakland; it’s a lovely place and they redid it about a year and a half ago, with a bamboo garden, coffee bar, and other fun things. =) Plus, it’s got a great collection of good old Regencies… it’s how I read most of Georgette Heyer, in fact.

Oh, and in regards to unwanted books, if you’re willing to pay postage, you might want to sign up and list them on That’s what I’ve done with a lot of mine, and not only have they gone to good homes, but I get book credits to use towards new books I want to read.

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