Top Tips to Help You Get Through Your Bookshelf

Ladder on Bookshelf
Category: Reading

A while ago I was confronted with the reality that the majority of the books adorning my somewhat dusty bookshelf were unread. There they all were, fixing me with an unwavering stare, reminding me of my unacceptable reading efforts.

The problem is, I love buying books. Discovering new and interesting authors and their work is really exciting to me. Sometimes, though, the amount of books I buy at any one period can be a bit extreme. Then comes the dreaded option paralysis: too many books for a naturally indecisive mind, and nothing ends up being read.

So in the tradition of giving advice rather than following it, below are a few tips to help you make it through the books you already have and stop adding to the ever-increasing still-to-read pile. 

Group books together

Chances are you'll have a few books in your collection that go really well together

Inevitably, there are crossovers in the world of books. Whether its authors who were writing at the same period or books that belong to a particular genre, chances are you will have a few books in your collection that go really well together. So, group them!

Reading them as a collection is a nice way of making your reading feel more focused and will probably mean you end up learning more about the genre, time period or writer than you would have if you’d read one book on its own.

Borrow books

I have to admit, I love buying new books. The crisp pages, the unbroken spine and, of course, that new book smell. But my reading ambition often outweighs reality and I find myself with a huge pile of untouched books to read.

However, borrowing and lending books is a great way to interrupt book buying and clear some space on your bookshelf/bedside table/general area of floor. Borrowing books can also help start interesting conversations with the lender. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve bought a book and found out a few days later that a family member of friend already has it. So the next time you have your eye on a book, why not ask around friends and family to see if there’s a copy you can borrow? Then congratulate yourself on both your self-control and general concern for the environment.

Donate old books to charity

While you may feel like you are committing a mortal sin, bite the bullet and get rid of a few of your read books

Another difficult one for me personally, as I struggle to get rid of any books. But the sad reality is that the majority of the books I read I will only read once. So while university copies of Thomas More’s Utopia and George Eliot’s Middlemarch may increase your literary prestige, if you want to clear space on your bookshelves, donating them to charity would be the wiser choice.

Also, there are always books we have just grown out of which could serve others much better than ourselves. So while you may feel like you are committing a mortal sin, bite the bullet and get rid of a few of your books.

Read bought books quickly

This one may seem slightly obvious; nobody buys a book thinking: “I can’t wait to read this in three years.” But if you make a conscious effort to get through books recently purchased they’re less likely to sit lonely on top of your bookshelf for months at a time. I do this at Christmas when I seem to receive an inordinate number of books from friends and family.

Gift books to friends

We always end up with books we know we will never read. A well-meaning friend can gift a book by an author you just loathe, you can end up with multiple copies of the same title or the book we bought in the airport remains unread after we spent the entire flight scrolling through photographs on our phones. So if you know you’re not going to read a book and have a friend you know would be interested, pass it their way.

You could even earn bonus points and wrap it up in the many unread copies of the London Review of Books you have lying around…

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