A Brief Guide To Culling Your Books

Does the thought of getting rid of or donating your old books make you break out into hives? Are you scared that your house will eventually collapse from the weight of all of your books? Are you making a New Year’s Resolution to declutter your shelves? If you’ve answered YES to any of these question then this post is FOR YOU, YES, YOU.

This GIF is kind of my life you guys.

In 2013 I made a resolution to cull 100 books, not even knowing that I would end up changing jobs and moving. I guess I just recognized that my book collection was out of control even back then. Granted, like many of you I actually do subscribe to the school of thought that you can never have too many books, however my boyfriend does not. I will straight up admit that it is really, really hard to let go of books even ones that honestly have zero sentimental value to me.

My feels when culling and packing and moving.

Here is the thing, when you move it is a heavy pain in the ass to lug box after box after box of books. I’ll tell you all that I began to resent my books after carrying the boxes up and down some stairs. That was the point where I said to myself, let’s actually do this resolution and get rid of all of these books. It was hard at first, but the more I got rid of, the easier it became.

Here’s a few guidelines I used:

  • Is it a classic? If the book isn’t a special edition, has no sentimental value, and in the public domain, I culled it. I had a lot of battered paperback classics that were yellowing that had no sentimental value to me, so I donated them and downloaded the Project Gutenberg version to my kindle. Special note: if your classic is a translation that is particularly good and NOT in the public domain, it’s totally okay to hang onto it.
  • Does this book still interest me? If not, I got rid of it. It was hard to train my brain out of the mindset where I would hang onto something because it MIGHT interest me someday.
  • Can I get it at the library? Luckily I am still in the same Four County Library System so, I could just go online and check to see if the library system had the book I was thinking of culling. If it didn’t, I would go back to does the book interest me, and if so, I would keep it.
  • Will I honestly read this book again? Will Tony read it? If the answer to both was no, and the book wasn’t sentimental to me, I culled it.
  • Is it an ARC? Guys, I even got rid of signed ARCs, because A) I didn’t love the book and B) I wasn’t going to re-read it.
  • Is it sentimental? Look, we have several copies of To Kill A Mockingbird and The Phantom Tollbooth because those books mean something personally to us. Tony and I both have the same edition of The Phantom Tollbooth but we kept both copies because they represent an important piece of our childhood.

Special note: These are just MY PERSONAL GUIDELINES for culling MY PILE, you don’t have to use these guidelines when you cull.

I kind of want to delve into ARCs a bit more and confess to you guys that where I have THE MOST TROUBLE with my book collection is with unread ARCs. I hang onto those things like I will get a demerit from the publisher if I don’t read that ARC they sent me back in 2010. Isn’t that nuts? I also hang onto sequel ARCs to books I haven’t read as well as sequels to books I didn’t like on the off chance that I might read it some day. I also keep hanging onto hardcover review copies of books that I currently am not interested in — just in case. It’s really hard but a few days ago, I basically made myself get rid of five ARCs from 2010-2011 and add them to my library shelf on goodreads, because honestly at this point they just take up space and it’s not like I was making a special effort to read them. I think my next step is going to be to cull those hardcover copies of books I am just not that into.

OH! And I created a super awesome flow chart, you’ll have to click it to make it bigger. It was a new experience to make, so please be gentle on me. I am not a graphic designer. I am totally a novice in flow chart creation AND definitely left some options out.

Should You Keep The Book? Flowchart

Click to embiggen

What do you think?

  • How do you decide what books to cull?

  • Do you have trouble donating certain types of books?

  • Are you an ARC hoarder?

  • Do you have any special tips and tricks for culling your books?

This hoarder totally needs your advice!

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.

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About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. What do you do with your ARCs? Do you just recycle them, or do you try to give them away? I have a bunch and I’m not sure what to do with them since I can’t donate them to the library book sale and they are kind of old.
    Tahleen recently posted..Best of 2013My Profile

    • Usually I bring them to our domestic violence shelter, the free table at work, or to this program in my community that gives disadvantaged families books to increase literacy. I mean, the books might be old to us, but to a kid who has never owned their own book or a family that has no books, those are treasures.

      If it’s falling apart, then yeah, I’d recycle.

      • I will look for a shelter that might want them. I was just not sure about the protocol for giving away galleys that weren’t meant to circulate except as a marketing tool.
        Tahleen recently posted..Best of 2013My Profile

  2. I leave old ARCs in random places for people to discover…. I can’t throw books away and I can’t break rules!
    Cleo recently posted..Top 10 Books published in 2013My Profile

  3. Honestly, I am SO glad to see that I’m not alone with having issues of getting rid of books. To be honest, I can’t even remember the last time I got rid of any of my books… It’s quite sad.

    I’m like you when I think that I’ll want to reread a book even if I didn’t like it, or that I’ll miss the book once it’s gone, despite having absolutely no connection to it. It’s so strange, but it’s totally true for me.

    I think I’m going to start culling the books I’ve already read and disliked. It’s actually an awesome idea to see if your library has the book- so that if I do want to reread it, it’ll only be a car ride away. I think that’ll help me assure myself when I’m getting rid of some of these.

    Such a lovely and helpful post! My book shelves are literally overflowing (I have a stack of 10 books already sitting on my desk because there’s NO room), so I’m going to be saving that lovely flow chart to look at when I’m re-organizing and de-cluttering my bookshelves.
    Aneeqah @ My Not So Real Life recently posted..The Top Ten Books of 2013!My Profile

  4. I feel the same way about culling unread ARCs or finished copies publishers sent me. It’s sometimes a little bit easier for me because when I’m culling books from my home library, I’m just moving them from home to my classroom library. But then I feel guilty still because I didn’t read those books that I’m adding to my classroom library. I pride myself on reading the majority of the books I take to school. I’ve kind of gotten over that guilt, however, because I like that my students get excited over “old” books (i.e. 2010-2011 titles) and they give me their reviews of the books as they finish them. There must be a special kind of guilt for readers 🙂

  5. I love this post! I am totally like you and I HATE getting rid of books. I have hundreds of books from high school that I know I’m never going to read again, but there’s always that “what if?” factor that keeps me holding on to them. That flow chart is actually really going to come into handy for me. I’m moving into my own apartment in a few months and I already know there is no way I’m going to want to bring all my books with me, never mind the fact that I haven’t even touched some of them in years.
    Rachel recently posted..On Your Radar: Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott (+ Giveaway!)My Profile

  6. Even though I didn’t answer yes to any of those questions, I still read your post and found it interesting! Mostly because it’s so opposite of me! I do not struggle with getting rid of books at all. I can’t even imagine culling 100, since I don’t even own that many (I don’t think)! I don’t buy physical books often at all, and I don’t get review copies, so the only physical books I have coming in are giveaway wins. When I finish a physical book, I immediately stick it in a box (or paperbag) and once it’s full, I take it to my library. The librarian is always so happy when I come in because according to her I “bring the best donations.” It’s true.

    The only books I keep are…
    1) Twilight: That series has a special place in my heart, and I have reread it, so it stays.
    2) Signed: Because…they’re signed! Usually personalized, but not always.
    3) Sleeping Naked is Green: Because it’s my favorite.

    That’s it…seriously. Everything else goes to the library, and my rare ARCs go to Arcycling.
    Angie F. recently posted..Review: Second Chance Summer by Morgan MatsonMy Profile

  7. This post came by at the perfect time for me. I counted the books on my shelves (not counting the ones hidden in my nightstand and in closets) and counted 200 ! I’m really going to follow the rule of if you can get it at the library, get rid of it.

    I’m also hanging on to things like the Twilight series that I KNOW I’ll never read again, but I always think…what if I need to look at something ?

  8. I’m actually pretty good at culling my books because I am cheap and only have one bookshelf at my place and one at my parents. I don’t have the space or the money to buy more, and I like entertaining so piles of books are a no-go. Therefore, if the shelf starts becoming a safety hazard, it’s time to cull. I have realized that I don’t reread many books so that argument isn’t really valid for me…
    Michelle recently posted..What did I read in 2013? Some StatsMy Profile

  9. I’m having trouble with my ARCs since I’m not sure how I feel about giving them to my library (since my library sells them) and ones that are already published aren’t as great for giveaways. Where do you drop off the culled books?
    Anya recently posted..Taste of Darkness by Maria V. Snyder eARC {3.5 Stars}My Profile

  10. Yes, yes, yes! I have so much trouble culling the book collection. while I’ve never had to personally move all the boxes of books, the military moved us which included packers, I always felt bad for them packing and lugging all the boxes out.

    For me, ARCs are the biggest problem because I’ve yet to find someplace here that I can donate them. For the rest of my books, I try to go through quarterly and see what no longer holds my interest. A lot of the books I’ve managed to be able to part with are ones that for ones reason or another I felt uncomfortable reading.

    In the end, I wind up keeping more than I get rid of because I love to revisit the books I read. It may take a few years till I re-read a few of them, but I love knowing that should the mood strike I can pick it up in an instant.
    Orchid @ The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia recently posted..Seven Moon CircusMy Profile

  11. As an accumulator of books and Graphic novels, the piling up is easy but the getting rid of is difficult. If you have the time one way is to post to blogs or sites a list of what you have and offer it to others. (They cover postage.) If the books are kids or Young Adult (or things you think would interest them) contact your local school and get the name of the librarian or an English teacher. many teachers are looking for books on the cheap or free to stock their in class libraries and ARC’s are great for that. Turns the kids on to new authors, series and genres. (Also since they were free it is easier to toss them when they become battered and start dissolving into piles of paper)
    When I’m in the culling the criteria is that I always keep a book I’m on the fence about getting rid of. It could always go in the next purge. Anything I disliked or would not read again goes automatically. While it is nice to have piles of books they take up space, so it doesn’t pay to just have them. Great advice in your post (and from commenters).

  12. Oh my stars, I adore you for this post so much. This is like my exact process when culling books 🙂

  13. Your flow chart is absolute BRILLIANCE. I think I’m going to keep it bookmarked for the next time I cull my library. Also, this Youtube video by the wonderful Rosianna Halse Rojas addresses the issue of culling books. I think you may like it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2o-aX7wQvRE

    Thanks for the post! Very helpful.
    Emma recently posted..Pain, Parties, Work by Elizabeth WinderMy Profile

  14. I need this flow chart printed out and use it when I’m packing up books for my move! I’ve hoarded a lot of books, and like you I’ve also hoarded ARCs that I may never read. A lot of my ARCs came from a few giveaway boxes I won – a box of ARCs sounded like a good idea at the time. I should definitely make a goal to prune my collection before having to pack it up.
    Julie S. recently posted..Soul of Flame by Rebecca Ethington Book BlastMy Profile

  15. Oh. Oh. A flow chart! I love and adore flow charts. This post is perfect for me. Although I have to be in the right mood (AKA: not a sentimental one) I’m getting better at culling my books. Once I got my masters it dawned on me I may have to move cross country and do I want to pay money to move some of these books? And that was mind blowing. So slowly but surely I’ve been getting better at parting and donating. But somedays, so hard.
    ashley recently posted..Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren MorrillMy Profile


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