Christina here. I’ve been reading a lot more than usual recently, not just on my Kindle but also trying to get through my TBR pile of physical books. It was getting ridiculous, although not quite as bad as the mess in this photo. Once I finish one, however, I have to find a space for it on my shelves and despite the fact that I have a LOT of bookshelves, this is getting increasingly difficult. That made me start thinking about what makes a book a keeper? This is probably a topic that’s been discussed before on Word Wenches, but I hope you don’t mind me reviving it?
I’ll confess that just about every book I read is a keeper for me because I find it a terrible wrench to part with any of them. I could probably Marie Kondo just about all my other possessions, but not the books. As long as I don’t actively dislike a novel (or even outright hate it!), I always hang onto it. And if my shelves become too full, the books get stacked sideways first as there always seems to be extra space at the top, or if necessary, double-stacked, although I really don’t like doing that. I want to be able to see at a glance what I’ve got.
I’m trying to be more ruthless these days, and as I’ve grown older, I have learned to predict more or less which books I’m going to love. Those I buy as paperbacks (or sometimes hardbacks), while the ones I’m not sure about I’ll get as ebooks. (Thank goodness for ebooks!) But that still leaves me with an awful lot of books. There might come a time when I’ll have to downsize or I’ll run out of space, and I know that will be painful. I’ve given it some thought though, and if I absolutely had to get rid of most of them, these are the ones that would definitely have to stay:-
All my Georgette Heyers – the first books I ever collected were Heyer’s paperbacks, the 1960s-70s Pan versions. Obviously, her novels have been released many times with lots of different covers, but I particularly liked this series which had matching covers so I started buying them. (I still think these are some of the best, although they can’t compete with the original dust jackets on the first editions). They look great on my shelf and I think I managed to find them all.
During the 1970s I read and loved the books by Victoria Holt, and when I found that in the UK her original hardbacks were fairly cheap, I bought them in a fit of nostalgia. They are now all on my keeper shelf and they’re not going anywhere. Although, to be honest, I doubt I’ll ever reread one as they are too dated now. (Anyone tried this?)
M M Kaye’s amazing novel The Far Pavilions sparked an abiding love for her stories and I bought them first in paperback and then in hardback. I probably couldn’t make myself part with either, which seems like a waste of space, but still … Anyone else do this – keep several copies of favourite books? It’s not logical, but maybe it doesn’t have to be? We’re bibliophiles, it’s what we do!
Other favourites that would definitely stay are:-
The Brother Cadfael novels by Ellis Peters – I bought one every year until the series was finished and eagerly devoured them. (But is it just me or do you get cross when the publishers change the format halfway through a series? I like them to be uniform, at least in size!)
The novels of Barbara Erskine – from the moment I first read Lady of Hay, I was hooked and have bought every single one since.
All the historical thriller/mystery novels by Steve Berry – they have fabulous covers and I love the combination of ancient treasures and modern-day thrills.
A selection of YA romance novels – following the publication of the Twilight series, I started reading more in this sub-genre and several YA authors’ works now grace my keeper shelf. Marissa Meyer, Sarah Dessen and Melissa Marr aren’t going anywhere.
And books written by friends are automatically keepers too, of course, so I absolutely must have a writing friends’ shelf.
If I still had space left over after that, I would have to go through the rest of my books one by one and apply the following criteria – (1) Did the characters stay in my mind? (2) Can I still remember the thrill of reading this story? (3) Did the ending leave me with a very satisfied smile on my face and that warm, fuzzy feeling that shows you’ve truly loved a book? (4) Did I immediately want to read anything else the author had written? If the answer to any of those questions is no, perhaps the book in question isn’t a true keeper?
Thinking about it, it’s probably crazy to hang onto most of them as I really don’t think I’ll ever re-read them. However, it was always my dream to have a library consisting entirely of the type of stories I love, and the thought of having all these books available just in case appeals to me greatly. In fact, don’t all us booklovers dream of having an old-fashioned library, perhaps like this one? (My all-time favourite is the library at Saltram House in Devon which is just wonderful. See here)
I know I am lucky to have the space to keep my book collection right now, and although this might change in future, I’ll fight tooth and nail to keep as many books as I possibly can. Without them, my home would just feel like an empty house.
What’s on your keeper shelf and what criteria would you apply if you had to cull them? And do you buy mostly paperbacks or ebooks these days?