Monday, October 4, 2010

Personal Libraries: Physical & Virtual

Thank you to Andi Cumbo, a writer and writing teacher, for today’s great post. I know you will learn as much as I did. Be sure to read her regular posts on writing and reading at Andilit.


In about a month, I’m moving. For me, the bulk of moving involves the purging, the cleaning, and the packing of books – lots of books. This move, though, I decided I would try to trim down my collection. I simply own too many books.

Yet, a personal library is really important, at least it is to me. There are authors I keep – Chaim Potok, Anne Lamott, Marilynne Robinson; these are the books I consider touchstones, ones which I turn to when I need insight, a good quote, or just a reminder that there are places where I can hide in words.

I keep track of my library through Goodreads. On this website, I can record books I’ve read and ones I want to read. I can becomes friends with people and see their libraries as well as read as their reviews of books they’ve finished. It’s a great site (and if you join, please find me under “andilit”) and you’ll find great books and keep up with what you’ve read. (Plus, if you run a blog, you can post book covers to your website directly on your blog through the Goodreads widget.)

In the current configuration of my library, there are authors I love but whose books I do not need to own – Sherman Alexie, Toni Morrison, Frederick Buechner; these are the books I love to read but which I probably won’t return to later. Finally, there are all the other books, the ones I don’t necessary treasure or even read. For years, I went around and picked up used copies of any book that I thought I “should” read, but now, well, I’m to a point in my life where I really want to read what I “want” to read. No more obligation to the ideal of the English major.

When I have books to give away, I may try to sell them (Independent bookseller Powell’s will buy used books for cash or store credit), but I typically give them away through Bookmooch. This great site helps book-lovers share titles with other book lovers. Simply list your book on your Bookmooch page, and if someone has that book on their “wishlist,” they’ll get an email saying the book has become available. You can also put titles you want on your “wishlist” and get the same kind of emails. When someone mooches from you, you simply ship the book media mail, and you get a point that you can use to mooch a book from someone else. For far less than the cost of a new book, you get to “recycle” titles that need a good home.

So as I pack this time, I’m cleaning out titles and carefully packing away my beloved ones. Thanks to Goodreads and Bookmooch I can connect with other readers and be sure my “paper babies” end up in the good homes that book lovers call our libraries.

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