Books are one of the hardest things for people to discard. As with the clothes, pull all your books off the shelves and tables and nightstands and put them in a pile. This may feel inconvenient and a waste of time and energy, but it is a must. Books on shelves hide in plain sight. They are like the praying mantis in a field, he is there but most people don’t notice him. It is difficult to judge whether or not a book sparks joy for you if you merely look at the spine.
Once again, it is helpful to subdivide books: general, or pleasure reading; practical, or reference or cookbooks; visual, which includes photographs; and magazines.
The criterion is joy and joy can’t be determined without touch. Don’t crack the book and start reading. This will obstruct clear decision-making. You’ll start asking questions of need rather than joy. You want your shelf to be full of only books that you love.
How many of your favorites have you actually read more than once? For most people it’s just a handful. What is more, the internet has made it possible to buy numerous books. Many people now buy a second or third book before even cracking the first. These “someday books,” the ones you’ve told yourself you’ll get around to someday, tend to be the hardest for people to let go. But it will better for you to let them go. Do so with the knowledge and gratitude that the book served the purpose: it taught you that you didn’t need it.
The author keeps a collection of 30 books at one time. Some of these books comprise the Book Hall of Fame, those works that evoke deep pleasure. Others don’t have quite that same effect, but still spark some joy. It’s fine to hang onto these books. Some of the toughest books to dispense of are the ones that give only moderate pleasure. For some people, it’s not the whole book but select passages that spark joy. You could consider tearing out the pages containing memorable passages and getting rid of the rest. The author adopted this “bulk reduction method,” but found that after two years, she had not once referred back at the pages she’d saved. It’d all been to appease her conscience.