Letting a Book Go


I really haven’t solved the question of how to let books go.

Some of you may remember the picture I posted a while ago of my bookcase, overflowing with books. And you may remember that I ended up simply buying another bookcase instead of letting any of the original books go.

Well… some months on… my husband and I are in a wild de-cluttering frenzy at the moment, in part because we’d like to move house by the end of this year and our rationale has become ‘if we were to move house tomorrow, would we take this with us?’

The main bookcase has long been in need of de-cluttering but we’ve managed to do wild cleaning out of the kitchen pantry, cupboards, the shed and various drawers, each day passing stressful eyes over the bookcase, which has sat there silently, reminding us to do something about it. (We couldn’t even open the doors safely for the books that came hurtling out towards us.)

Yesterday, we finally did something. And we talked a lot about the process and just why is was so damn hard to let a book–any book–go from our life. We love books. We value books. We treasure books. We see books as artworks, repositories of wisdom and knowledge. But it’s more than that. Every book we’ve read becomes a part of us. And we become a part of that book. We give a piece of ourself to the book and the book becomes a piece of us. Letting go of a book is like letting go of a friend, a memory, a sensory experience.


What do you do with the books that you re-read every few years or so? Or the books that you adored but will probably never read again but still can’t stand to let go? Or the novels that you probably won’t read again but you feel you should keep ‘just in case’ you need them as references when writing your own stories? Or the books from childhood that shaped your imagination and spirit but that are literally falling apart and mouldy?

The de-cluttering resulted in three massive horse-feed bags filled with novels and non-fiction to be donated and a whole lot of space left in our precious bookcase for more gifts to come into our life. But it didn’t happen without vigorous debate, considerable angst and even some tears. It was a deeply emotional experience. Letting go of a book is not just letting go of a ‘thing’; it’s letting go of a living energy.

I still don’t know how to do it. We just did it as best we could: messily, angrily, sadly, and hopefully.

The only bright side in saying goodbye to these friends is that new ones will soon be here.



One comment on “Letting a Book Go

  1. I feel your pain and you are much braver than I. I can’t throw books, give them away just as I can’t let records or CD’s go. They are a part of me just as you so beautifully described in your post. When I first came to Australia and then later travelled extensively overseas I had my books stored in tea chests back in NZ. Then my husband (at the time) and I split up while living in London. When I returned to Australia three years later and reclaimed my tea chests of goodies, most of my books were gone – given away presumably and many of my records. It broke my heart. Six years later I was able to replace all the Stephen King books of which I’m a huge fan, so while they are not the original books (which has it’s own uniqueness about them) I at least have a copy and my SK collection beams proudly from the shelves but sadly my records could not be replaced. Vinyl was not so easy to access and to this day it hurts as some of my treasured albums are lost to someone else’s collection. It feels like theft – no wait, it is theft, but regardless of that, letting go of books and music is extremely difficult for me to do and the only way I can stop the book case from overflowing is to stop buying books – but I guess that’s not gonna happen anytime soon. Well done to you both – new ones will fill your shelves and they will bring you great joy but you will still feel the loss because books hold a very valued part in your life. And letting go is such a valuable exercise, of which I do often, just can’t do the books or music! Maybe one day I will find the courage just as you have done 🙂

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