Book Diet

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What do you do when you’ve got more books than bookshelves? Time to go on a book diet. Peter Andrus guides us through what stays and what goes.

My wife recently asked me to consider paring down my book collection. Our three large bookshelves were filled to bursting, and she wanted me to clean them up and get rid of books that weren't important to me.

Easier said than done. I'm an avid reader. I love books--owning them, reading them, lending them to friends, just having them near me. Despite all that, I had to admit that lately our shelves had gotten out of hand. As always, she was right, the unnecessary books needed to go.

The first to go were those that I bought and couldn't remember why, like "A How-To Guide for Celestial Navigation". These books were crowding out space for those I really wanted to spend time with.

Then, I focused on books I was too sentimental about. These included old college textbooks, Christmas and birthday gifts, like "Treasure Island", a birthday present from my Uncle. I realized I could enjoy the memories without the books.


Next went the books I thought I wanted to read, but had to admit I never would because there'd always be something better or fresher in front of them in my queue. Sorry "Tess of the d'Urbervilles". I knew, deep down, that I would die having never read these, a grim reminder of my own mortality.

I moved on to books I had purchased, admittedly, only to make me look smarter. I had no intention of reading these, and life is too short to turn anything I love into a chore.

Finally, I came to the books I had actually read. I kept those I enjoyed the most. The rest will be given to friends. These books have given me joy, and joy should be passed on to others.

When the project was complete, I had eliminated hundreds of unnecessary books from my collection. I'm not going to lie, when I see those hollowed out shelves, I still feel like my soul has been rent, but I also see empty shelves that need filling. Like Jean Valjean, I get a new start, ...redemption... and I've made a resolution: I will no longer allow my time, money, and shelf space to be wasted on books that don't matter to me.

My wife was right--those books had to go. I can't wait to go book shopping.

With a Perspective, I'm Peter Andrus.

Peter Andrus, his wife, three kids and books live in Livermore.