I find it incredibly difficult to cull my books.
I convince myself that I have a good reason for keeping every one of my keepers. Most of the time I have, but not always. Generally, I keep a book I know or strongly believe I will read again. I have also kept some of my old university text books, knowing that they can be good for reference, and so it has proved, for some of them. Others I keep just because I once enjoyed them, and might again, which leads me me to the next category: the many books that I keep planning to re-read, but I never get round to. My travelogue collection is big on those. And then there are the travel guides I keep that are years out of date, because they have memories attached to them. Can't let go of those, now can I?
I cull about 95% of my owned books after I read them, which is a lot. Many go on my BookMooch list, some I give back to the charity shop, and the hardcovers and the paperbacks that are in a 'like new' condition I donate to the library. I keep telling myself that I should cut down on the book buying and concentrate on books I think I might want to keep after I have read them. Fat chance.
Then there are the TBR books. By my estimation, about 80% of my 900 odd TBR books were bought very cheaply from a neighbourhood charity shop, and most of them on speculation. The rest I got through BookMooch, was given or bought new. I often buy books I would like to read but which end up sitting on a shelf for a couple of years before I either read them or find them and think to myself: "why on earth did I buy this?", and cull them without reading them. I think I have a subconscious fear of seeing a book I want to read, not buying it when I have the chance, then not being able to find it anywhere, leading me to hate myself for not grabbing it when I had the chance. This is of course one of the varieties of the dreaded Reader's Anxiety. Unfortunately, having all those books sitting around unread can cause another variety: the one where you take a look at your bookshelves and think "I will never be able to read all these books!"
On Sunday morning, I finally put into action an idea I have been toying with for a while. I opened the Excel file in which I keep the list of all my books and opened the TBR spreadsheet. Then I opened the gegnir.is website, which is a database of the book collections of many Icelandic public libraries, including all the ones I have access to. Then I made a new spreadsheet, titled TBR-once owned. Then I took a long, hard look at my TBR shelf and noticed some authors whose books I remembered seeing in some library or other. Then I sat down and searched the Gegnir database for all the titles I owned. All the ones that were available from a library I have access to, I moved from the My library spreadsheet to the new spreadsheet, then took the books down from the shelves. Some will go in my BookMooch inventory, and the rest I am taking to a second-hand book shop to see if I can get some money for them. If not, it will be a gain for the charity shop.
The initial cull only yielded 20 books, some by writers whose books I enjoy but nevertheless know I will not want to own. A "what the hell was I thinking" cull yielded another 2 books. 22 books is not much for a library of this size, just barely over 1% of all the books, but it's a start. I aim to get my TBR-owned list down below the 900-mark before the beginning of June, through a combination of ruthless culling, culling with intent to read later, and reading and culling.
Ideally, I should follow up with less book-buying, and since I now have a definite financial goal to aim for - I am saving up for a trip to Egypt - that should make it slightly easier. However, it remains to be seen whether I will merely be making space for even more TBR books, or whether I manage to keep my book-buying impulses under control.