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Do you have too many books?

Right off the bat, my answer is a likely no. But I have to confess I am a writer, author, librarian, editor, publisher, book lover and book collector, so maybe I am not the best judge.

Perhaps you think you have too many books at work or at home. Perhaps you have had an “intervention” by your spouse, officemate, or friends. In that case, read on. Perhaps with the holidays upon us, new books as gifts from friends might put you over the top!

Here are some questions to think about as you ponder your books:

  • Is the ever-expanding collection just at home, or at work, or both?
  • Are most of the books you own for reference or for enjoyment?
  • Are you sometimes surprised by the books you own?
  • Have you purchased a book only to find out you own it already?
  • Do you have your books arranged in some fashion?
  • Do you refer back to your books from time to time as a reference?
  • Have you had to “make room” for new books, or to rearrange your life or living space to fit them?
  • Do they bring you joy or comfort?
  • Are they really causing any inconvenience or problem for you or others?
  • Do you think there are too many?

These questions may help guide you in determining if there are too many or not. Based on your responses you might wish to take a few steps. Here are some ideas.

  • Take some time to go through your books and take the temperature of the total collection.
  • Do you feel like you want to make any changes?
  • For professional books, consider culling older or less relevant ones. Give them to other colleagues, the library, or perhaps sell on eBay.
  • For personal books, if you want to cut back then donate them to charities, a library, or a used bookstore. They make great and meaningful gifts especially if inscribed.
  • Consider categorizing your books for easier reference. Categorize by topic, or title, or author, or color, or height, or how much you enjoy them!
  • Move some books to work or some to home to alleviate a lopsided collection.
  • At home, relocate them to different rooms to spread the love.
  • If you haven’t picked up a book or referred to it in, maybe, five years, consider purging it. Or not. Exceptions are ones close to your heart.
  • Consider the practice of every time you add one, to take one away.
  • Shelve them two deep. Heresy?
  • Get taller or better bookshelves.

After having gone through these ideas, take a break. Feel good about your progress (whether you made any or not).

Remember these points (or tell them to the person who is staging the intervention):

  • I went through them and made progress!
  • I need these books for work!
  • I need these books for my mental health!
  • I could be collecting a lot of worse things! Bowling balls. Model trains. Ferrets.
  • They are what make me who I am!
  • They are books for heavens sake! It’s a good thing.
  • It’s quarantine. Give me a break!

Keep your books. Enjoy them. It will be all right. And take a photo of your or your collection and post it here. There is strength in numbers.

John BondJohn Bond is a publishing consultant at Riverwinds Consulting. He works with individuals on publishing and writing projects. Schedule an initial complimentary phone call at Publishing Fundamentals. In his career, he has directed the publishing of over 500 book titles and 20,000 journal articles. He is the host of the YouTube channel “Publishing Defined.” Contact him at