Moving your household provides many opportunities, one of them is the opportunity to sort through your belongings and get rid of some of them. Due to time constraints, I was unable to do much sorting during the packing phase. Thus, I find myself sorting items during the unpacking.
I like to read, and I enjoying browsing in book stores – especially used book stores. There is a distinct pleasure in discovering books while browsing. Living near DC placed me within easy reach of such enjoyable book shopping opportunities as the Green Valley Book Fair, Daedalus Books, and Second Story Books. Such wonderful browsing opportunities coupled with low prices (Green Valley and Daedalus are remaindered book heavens) means that one tends to acquire a lot of books.
And then, there are all the lovely book stores I have visited in my travels – in no particular order:
- Tattered Cover (Denver)
- Powell’s (Portland)
- City Lights (San Francisco)
- Strand (NYC)
- Kepler’s (Menlo Park)
- Booked Up (Archer City)
I could go on.
So, the problem becomes that once you have acquired a number of boxes of books – will you ever have time to read all of them? Thus, I find myself looking for useful criteria for winnowing. That is, identifying books that I will never read a second time, or perhaps never read at all. The winnowed books are being donated to Goodwill, being used as BookCrossing fodder, or being donated to library sales.
While I’m not using all of these criteria, here are some interesting principles for determining whether to read a given book:
- Merlin Mann’s “Wildly Reductive Heuristics” – including such gems as "Is the book published by a company that you’ve never heard of — or, far worse, does that company appear to share the last name of the author or his yacht?"
- The Page 69 Test (and another page about it), along with similar tests such as page 34, page 27, page 7, and page 99.
And finally, when it comes to fiction I love Graham Greene’s philosophy:
When I open a book and find that so and so has “answered sharply,” or “spoken tenderly,” I shut it. It’s the dialogue itself which should express the sharpness or the tenderness without any need to use adverbs to underline them.
In fact, this post was largely an excuse to track down the Graham Greene quote for my own amusement.
[One page also mentions a similar rule for music albums: the Track 7 Rule. I’m curious about this, but I can think of at least one album where the 7th track would lead you astray about the contents of the record.]