It’s Time to Play Keep or Cull


I have left the era of acquiring and now entered the age of dispersing.

There are 14 bookcases in my house, most of them stuffed. The kids each have a bookcase in their rooms. Harriet has one for all her cookbooks. The rest are mostly mine. Our two feature bookcases, on either side of the fireplace, I’m trimming out and painting.

It’s time to do something about the all books. The time of the culling has begun.

After Trump was elected in 2016, I was inspired to write a dystopian novel called THE CULLING.

But culling books is not the same as culling humans through a simple lottery. I’m finding it complicated. What books are worth saving – and which ones do I let go?

I don’t know how many books I have. Hundreds. Like most writers, I’ve always collected books. I like having them around. I reference some, reread others. I like when people come in my house see bookcases full of books.

But it’s time to let some go. I have to develop criteria, like I did to make judgments and selections for The Most Important Novels in My Life and My List of Must-See Movies.

Books to Keep:

  • Any book that influenced me as a writer, or any author who has (So many).
  • Any small or large collection of books by an author I admire (Philip Roth, Margaret Atwood, Lorrie Moore, Ernest Hemingway).
  • Any book by an author I admire, whether I’ve read it or not (Women, Charles Bukowski).
  • Any book I haven’t read yet but might/should someday (The House of Seven Gables, Anna Karenina).
  • Any book I believe is important but have no hope of reading (War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy).

Books to Cull:

  • Any book that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone under any circumstances (Night Train, Martin Amis).
  • Books I’ll never read and don’t care about.
  • Books I’ve read but feel indifferent about (Most will come from this category).

I’ll probably have to make a couple of passes through the collection, then I’ll have to figure out how to arrange the survivors back on my shelves.

By David Klein

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, journalist, avid reader, discriminating screen watcher.


Subscribe to this Blog

Enter your email address to receive notifications of new posts by email.

Get in touch