Should They Stay or Should They Go?

I’m gearing up for a good home cleaning, as I’m feeling inspired by Marie Kondo and I have some time off in the next couple of weeks.  It feels like a good time to clear things out and give things away I’m not using.  And it’s also time to think about what I want to read next year.

I took a picture of the books on my shelf that I might read one of these days. Most of these are books I picked up from library sales; they were great deals and things I wanted to read at some point.  I know a lot of people have trouble getting rid of books.  But I’d rather donate them back to the library or a Little Free Library nearby if I’m not going to read them.  Also, I read much more on Kindle than on paper these days.  I have space for these, but that doesn’t mean I should keep them. 

Sure, they might be good for me, and they might apply to challenges I’ll sign up for in 2020.  But shouldn’t the first question be, do I really want to read them?


Here are the titles, broken down a bit by category.

Books by authors I know I like:

  • Swamplandia by Karen Russell
  • The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
  • Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo
  • Take the Cannoli by Sarah Vowell
  • The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna
  • Homework by Margot Livesey
  • The Antelope Wife by Louise Erdrich
  • The Night Watch by Sarah Waters
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Classics I think I should read but probably won’t:

  • Kim by Rudyard Kipling
  • A Canticle for Liebowitz by Walter M. Miller
  • Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham (just the title is daunting)

Authors I hear great things about:

  • Brick Lane by Monica Ali
  • Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey
  • Eileen by Otessa Moshfegh
  • The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
  • Mystic River by Dennis Lehane

Graphic novels/memoirs:

  • My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris
  • Quiet Girl in a Noisy World: An Introvert’s Story by Debbie Tung

Books I won and feel guilty I haven’t read:

  • Thief’s Magic by Trudi Canavan
  • First Impressions by Charlie Lovett

Lighter reads but not sure I’ll like them:

  • Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johannsen
  • The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig

That’s my shelf!  Before I try to figure out which ones bring me joy and which ones are just stressing me out, please tell me if any of these are titles you loved or hated – and why.  Thanks!

  8 comments for “Should They Stay or Should They Go?

  1. December 17, 2019 at 4:00 am

    The only one of these I’ve even started is First Impressions (also from a giveaway) and I did not like it and discarded without finishing. It was a long time ago so I can’t recall exactly why, but I think the style got on my nerves.

    Book purging is so difficult! But after my recent massive letting-go of many, many books there are only a few choices I regret, one way or the other. Releasing those books you feel you should read but probably never will is a big relief and gives back a lot of energy bound up in those expectations.

    You may also want to keep in mind that with classics like Kim, A Canticle for Leibowitz, and Of Human Bondage, if you ever desperately do want to read them for some reason it will be easy to get a copy. It’s harder for me to let go of books that are more obscure/less readily available.

    • December 17, 2019 at 9:09 am

      Thanks Lory, that is really helpful! Actually, just making this list helped me decide which ones I really want to keep. Plus if I need to buy something again I’ll be supporting a bookseller.

  2. December 17, 2019 at 4:58 am

    I have read exactly one of these (Thief’s Magic) and really enjoyed it, but partly because I had a friend who was also reading the Canavan books at the same time and I liked having an IRL friend to talk about it with. It’s a fairly fun and compelling read – I read the second in the series, but haven’t got onto the third yet. Because of the way it’s written, it kind of has one epic fantasy and one urban fantasy setting, which I enjoyed – other than that, I wouldn’t say that it offers anything especially unique.

    • December 17, 2019 at 9:07 am

      Thanks for the helpful description! I would like to read it. I’ve heard good things.

  3. Margaret
    December 18, 2019 at 12:35 am

    I read Of Human Bondage in high school (over 30 years ago) and it wasn’t even required … I read it on my own, when I was bored in other classes. I found it quite engrossing and affecting, and remember the characters vividly. I distinctly remember reading that novel surreptitiously in French class (I love French but we didn’t have enough to do in class) and even during down time in gym class when we were just sitting around waiting to be told what to do next. I don’t know that this novel would be as compelling these days given all the competition out there, especially with endless intriguing contemporary novels to choose from. But it was a great read for a bored girl in a small -town Midwest high school in the ‘80s (the things we did before the internet!), and it turned me into a Somerset Maugham fan.

    • December 19, 2019 at 1:14 pm

      Thanks for sharing Margaret! I read a lot of books in high school (and middle school) that were supposed to be too advanced for me. Though I don’t suppose I could pull off reading them during class. I never enjoyed my assigned books as much as the ones I chose myself. I’m glad to hear you liked this one. I think one of the reasons I read fewer classics today is there are so many more diverse options being written today.

  4. December 18, 2019 at 7:12 pm

    I loved ‘Neverwhere’ and ‘Mystic River!’ I haven’t read any of the others.

    • December 19, 2019 at 1:14 pm

      Thanks for the recommendations! I definitely want to read Neverwhere, I love Neil Gaiman. I’ll keep Mystic River on my TBR list.

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