You may or may not know, but recently I have decided to cull some books from my ridiculous, over the top TBR. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are still more books on my shelves than I will ever read in a lifetime. But I decided to rehome over 200 books, and I think that’s kind of a big deal. Only… it isn’t easy. So I thought I’d share my process! Not to be helpful, just because I feel like it. 😉

The problem can be one or many of the following:

  • You have officially run out of space and it’s starting to look like an episode of Hoarders in your house.
  • You need to downsize, and how rude of wherever you are going to not have enough storage space!
  • You’ve been hanging on to the same crap since 2003, and you finally were able to admit that you might not be interested in some of it anymore.
  • You’re moving and you straight up do not want to lift more boxes of crap than necessary.

Mine was… all of the above! But recognizing and actually taking action are two very, very different things.

“Nah, I can carry extra books. What’s the big deal? Maybe I can store them in a closet!” Sure genius, but where are you storing your actual clothes? Even bookworms need a shirt in the morning. While you’re denying, you can also make excuses. Such as “but I am totally going to read that series one day!” or “I didn’t hate book one that much…” or “but all my friends loved it!” Well Sheila, that’s super, but just because your buddy loved it doesn’t mean you will. You DNFed it last time you tried, remember?

Look at you, throwing those two sequels to series you hated in the giveaway pile! Yeah, pal, not going to cut it. I found a couple books that I knew damn well I was never reading, and placed them (hesitantly, of course) into the trade pile. This will not lighten your load, nor free shelf space. This is you, deluding yourself. Sure, you’ll feel moderately proud for a few seconds. Enjoy it, because shit is going to come crashing down- maybe literally, depending on the size of your book stack.

Take a step back, and gaze upon your space. Does it look as though nothing has changed? That is because it hasn’t. You still have rogue books on surfaces not designed for books. You still own series upon series you’re never going to read. And those two random books you traded? Well, since you traded them, you’ve just recieved two new books in their place, making your Total Removed Book Count steady at zero books.

You sigh, because this shan’t be easy, but you’re going to have to be brutal. Vicious. Downright harsh. These books have got to go.

Look, we all know what you have to do: go through every single book on your shelf, deciding which can stay and which need to go. This generally involves unshelving all the books. No one likes this. Because it inevitably means you’re going to have to reshelve all the keepers.

My room currently looks like a large bookstorm (that’s a rainstorm, with books) has just passed over the area, and oops, my roof leaked. Books are strewn everywhere. Now, not only do I have the mess I made while organizing them into keep versus purge, but I also have piles designated for other people. It’s… not great.

See? This isn’t a good look. At all.

You’re also going to have to decide which books make the cut. And this is hard. Here are a few questions I asked myself:

  • If I had to read this right now, would I?
  • (For sequels) Did I like the predecessor? At least 3.5-4 stars?
  • Did I see reviews that have kept me interested?
  • Do people with similar reading tastes seem to like it?
  • Have I had this for more than a year? If so, can I honestly say I still am interested?
  • If I’ve read it, is it a favorite/part of a series I know I want to continue?

If I answered “no” to most of those, it’s got to go.


You’ve done it! You have actually found some books that you can part with! Nice job, Sheila! Now, you must find them homes. If you’re like me, you wouldn’t mind making a few bucks off the finished copies (spoiler: this doesn’t work very well). And you want to find good homes for all the books. So you have some options!

  • Post on Twitter. The #booksfortrade is a pretty jumping hashtag- but it can be tough to navigate. People have done full posts about it, so Google away. Basically, there are a lot of awesome people who want to trade books, but there can be a few bad apples. And also, it can be a pain in the ass, so just… be ready.
  • Post on your blog. This didn’t work that well for me, but it was a good way to get all the info I wanted in one place. I would personally suggest a combo of some of these options, because one isn’t going to cut it.
  • Sell finished copies on Amazon… if you don’t mind Amazon taking a cut. I did this with my Sarah J Maas books because it was worth it- people paid full price for even my used books! But if you have a lesser known book, it is so not worth the hassle for the dollar you’ll end up making.
  • Donate! Where is up to you- libraries have rules, so check yours. Same with schools and such. But I think anything goes at Goodwill and such? Don’t quote me, I made that up. Also look into other places, like women’s shelters, hospitals, etc. Basically anywhere someone may want to read a book but doesn’t have access to them!
  • Give them to your friends. Especially if your friends are local, this could cut down on shipping costs.
  • Make art out of them! I am no artist, but Cait does such a thing, and it’s really great! I have seen a lot of amazing shops that do a variety of stuff with old unwanted books. Plus, you could make money! (I feel like this is an extra great solution for all those Problematic Authors we’ve heard about recently.)

I haven’t gotten to this step yet. But it sounds awesome.

Let’s chat! Have you ever gotten rid of books- either physically or virtually? How do you decide what makes the cut?

Posted February 24, 2018 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in Discussion, Discussion Challenge / 66 Comments

66 responses to “Book Culling: The Process

  1. Rogue books- I like that. And this looks like a huge undertaking so you have my admiration! I buy so many books on Kindle now that I don’t have it quite that bad, but I still do have a little bit of a problem with space. I’ve donated a few books but I still have some I don’t want… I should go back and look at your earlier post because you might have a few I’d buy. Have you thought about starting a bookstore? (kidding, kidding). Seriously though, I was talking to a used bookstore owner here and they sell a TON of their stuff online apparently. It got me thinking… 🙂

    • Aw thanks! You know, I have started to see the error of my ways in hoarding physical books. I have done pretty well though, especially with books I have already read, I am only keeping those I loved. But the ones I haven’t read… they’re another story. And I keep telling you that you can have anyyyyy of the books you want, silly! I have actually thought of starting one of those Little Free Libraries with my own stash! It IS a good idea I think to sell online- of course, it’s hard to get noticed in the sea of Amazon. Damn Amazon, monopolizes everything, now we have to hate them because they won’t stop supporting the NRA… ugh. Maybe that WILL work- people will want my old books instead of Amazon- I definitely don’t support the NRA! 😂

  2. Honestly I’d prob just stop at Step 2 lol. No, I actually did go through and get rid of a bunch of books from my childhood/teen years when I moved last year, so yay me! I gave them all to my niece and to these girls who moved near my grandma and I don’t know the situation but they didn’t have a lot. More recently I got rid of my entire Vampire Chronicles collection which was not an easy decision, but the books were just so old and beat up (almost all, if not all, came from used stores and were already a mess when I got them), and they smelled weird, so yeah. Idk if that’s the old book smell that everyone loves, but I didn’t like it lol. But I do have a couple books I’ve saved that I’m not interested in cuz I’d maybe like to try using them for art or something!

    • Oh yes, stopping at Step 2 has ALWAYS been my go-to. Sometimes Step 3 hahah. But… it’s gotten out of hand. AW that is so sweet that you gave them all your books! I bet it meant a lot to those girls. All my Baby-Sitters Club books smell like my parents’ basement but I am still so sad to get rid of them. Some were ruined in a flood in the aforementioned basement, and I’d had the WHOLE collection so… I feel you with the getting rid of Vampire Chronicles! It’s hard when it was a big part of your life! And you SHOULD do art, I’d love to see it!

  3. I actually am posting my process of unhauling at the start of the year tomorrow haha.

    Getting rid of my unhaul stack is so hard. I used to sell them at a second hand store but that closed down. 🙁 Selling online isn’t going super well either. And I need to sort through the books and see if I think some of my friends would like some of them and then offer. If I can’t get them out in the next few months they are going to goodwill I guess. I might try trading but meh. The shipping, the effort…

    • Oh wow, good for you! But seriously, it IS hard. And that sucks that the store closed! I wish there was a place around here, I’d try that for sure. I feel you with the online selling, too. I have had so many people back out, or not get back to me, and then I’m stuck with all these damn books in limbo, taking up space all over my floor! And YEP trading is a PAIN. Shipping isn’t cheap, and I’m always worried about things getting damaged. It is a struggle! We need to form some kind of booksale website! (Actually, this is not a bad idea…)

  4. When we were moving I had to downsize in a big way, and as it is, I don’t read most of my physical books.
    *Confession: I often buy the ebook, try to get an eGalley, or wait for eLibrary to get books I already own in physical format.
    I gave all my unwanted finished copies to Friends of the Library for their sale, and found shelters and juvenile detention centers for the ARCs. I gave even sent a few out to other bloggers. Oddly enough, I spied a book in your picture I wanted to read. =)

    • Wow, that is pretty impressive actually! I find I read ebooks faster, and hardcovers aren’t exactly a hoot to read, so I feel you.

      I like the library idea, I might do that- I know mine has a sale in the summer, so that could work. I mean, of course I am going to try to sell them first because well, I’m poor hah. But I have also been sending some to friends, too- just seems like the right thing to do. Gave a stack to my brother’s girlfriend because she said she was lacking stuff to read hah. If you DO want one, let me know, I’d of course send it to you! But then you’d have to buy the ebook 😉

  5. this is amazing!! see, I’d like to think that I’m doing okay because I have a lot of space still left on my bookcase and room for one more bookcase but when I look at my bookcase there are at least between 10-20 books that have been on my bookcase for over a year that I should probably decide what to do with it! I can safely say that this post has made me want to do that 😀

  6. I used to regularly purge my books since I have limited shelf space, but it’s been ages since I’ve had a purge. In all honesty, there are a lot of books that I could get rid of since they range from boring me to infuriating me but I…just…like…looking at them. Ugh! Congratulations on undertaking this process. We all know how difficult it is.

  7. Good job! I’m to the book storm stage… I think I’m going to just throw them all on a yard sale for a buck each this summer haha. Or maybe give them to my used book store. Mailing them all out sounds like a pain.

    • Aw thanks! HAH the book storm stage sucks. I am clearly still there too. I threw a couple really old ones in a yard sale box too! Mailing them IS a pain- I mean, I don’t mind of course, too much, but… used book store would be MUCH easier, if I’d had such a beast!

  8. Ali

    I’m culling my books ALL the time. I have a tiny little table that serves as my TBR, so when that starts to get overfilled, off they go! It can be really tough, though! My dream is to have NO TBR one day so I can just read what whatever I feel like in that moment XD I know it’ll never happen.

  9. Unhauling is much harder then it seems like it should be. In the interest of my new bookstore, I was thinking about buying all your books. Then I had to take a moment and think about all the good homes those books could go to right now. I am trying to raise funds for the bookstore and stock it. It is still very tempting. I guess I am waiting to see what is left and make a manageable order from you. People love used books and I definitely want to have a section for them in my store.

    • Ha right? It’s so easy to HAUL, but then to unhaul… yeah nope hahha. Oh wow, let me know if you do want books- obviously bulk books are less expensive, I have been giving people a “buy 3 get one free” deal but we could work something out if you are interested! I’d love to help your venture, too! That is so cool that you are opening a bookstore! I have to head to your blog to check out the details!

  10. This post is awesome. I’ve never gotten rid of unread books because I’m extremely picky about what I acquire. My TBR pile is big, but it’s not as out-of-control as other people’s. I get rid of the majority of my books after I read them. I have no space, and I need credits to get more books.

  11. Oh, you brave soul! You tackled that dreadful situation like a beast. xD We use the one-year rule in our house. Have you used this in the past year? Do you intend to use it in the next year? If the answer’s no, it goes. The caveat being if it’s a collection for some reason (hubby’s got all the Wheel of Time books in hardback and does reread them from time to time) or if it has special meaning. But generally, the one-year rule works pretty well. If I can’t see myself reading an unread book in the next year, then I probably really don’t want to read it all that much.

    • Ooooh I like the one-year rule! I have tried that with other things (clothes and such mostly) but… I am a bit of a pack rat, fear. And you are SO right- what is the reason you wouldn’t want to read it within a year? Unless it is a special circumstance, it probably means you don’t care about it that much! I should really go through and ask myself that, maybe I can weed out a few more!

  12. I had to do a purge of books a few years ago. Granted it mostly consisted of books from my childhood, which I won’t be rereading in the next few decades so it was easier. But, still. Deep down it still stings. It was for a good cause, I needed a few shelves cleaned out and my local library now has an enormous amount of MG books in english to help with brazilians learning a second language with books that don’t dumb everything down 🙂

    • It IS always hard- no matter how much you know you aren’t going to be reading them, for some reason it is still hard. And it is AWESOME that you were able to donate so many books to such an awesome cause- that definitely helps lessen the sting!

  13. Great Post! One year we moved 3x’s and so I had to purge books. It was hard, but I eventually let go and now I only have the books I know I’ll re-read. I don’t buy books unless they are going to be re-reads and so, my library has become my friend ^_^.
    This year I’m working on culling the ever growing TBR list I have on Goodreads. At one point I’d put the whole series on and so I’m taking them all off except for book one. I’m also getting ride of ones I know I won’t read and for some reason can’t understand why they got on their in the first place.

    • WHOA, 3 times!? That must have been AWFUL, I am sorry! That is pretty smart to try books at the library first, too! I wish I had the self-control to do that 😀

      The Goodreads culling needs to happen for me too. I did the same with the series, but I have been getting rid of those too- do you find that it takes forEVER to purge Goodreads? I think I had an easier time with my physical stack!

  14. Oh yeah, my room is a hot mess right now with stacks of books I need to get rid of, and I need to find time for getting them OUT of the house. Granted, it gives me more time to keep looking over all my shelves – and other places I stick books – to try and find more I could get rid of. It’s a process, I agree.


  15. Sab Edwards

    You couldn’t get me to even take an ebook if it was free LOL…give me a physical book and I’m in heaven..that pile looks like heaven to me and sorta gets me all excited (ok, YES, IT GETS ME excited, but its BOOKS, its supposed to) I prob should sell some of the books that I know I will never re-read…so far I’ve re-read my favs at least once and some I even will re-read twice in a year LOL

    • Bwhahah RIGHT? When I first started blogging I was reading ebooks, but then I saw alllll the lovely stacks of books, and I was jealous, so I bought ALL the books. And now… it’s a real problem! If you re-read though, it probably does make sense to hang onto them! That was kind of how I decided about the ones I’d read- if I thought there was a chance of rereading, I kept them. If I KNEW it wasn’t happening… bye! 🙂

  16. Kel

    Hahaha, this is so accurate! I haven’t had to do a serious purge in years. I’m afraid of what that would look like because I love the idea of a giant home library, and I’ve developed a bit of a collection of books I’ve read over the years, including a bunch I remembered liking as a kid, and (who are we kidding?) there are a TON of others I haven’t read yet. It’s not going to be pretty.

    Quick add to where to send rejects: it’s true getting money for your used books isn’t easy (especially if you don’t want the hassle of listing them online, shipping, etc.). If you live near a Half Price Books, the Strand, Powell’s, or a used book store, you may be able to get cash or at least credit for some of your books. 🙂 And yes, you can drop off pretty much anything at Goodwill. 😉

    • Ugh SAME, that is the thing, I DO want to have a huge home library some day and I worry that I will regret this! But when there is no ROOM for said library… I guess I have to prioritize!

      I REALLY wish I lived anywhere near one of those places- hell, it’d even be worth a day trip!I am going to New York in a few weeks but… do I really want to drag books around with me? Ughhh. The struggle! I’ll probably donate some of these rejects to a school or something and then if even they don’t want them… Goodwill bin it is hahha

  17. Honestly I would get rid of some books EXCEPT IT’S HARD. Like not hard emotionally…hard physically!? Doing books-for-trade ended up being a nightmare for me with postage and mis-quoting people and then it being like 2 grams over so having to pay $10 bucks AND I’M NOT CUT OUT FOR THAT. 😂 When I moved I ended up just donating a ton to the thrift stores. Easy. (And it’s handy if you’re leaving town otherwise you end up perusing for your old books lmao.) I’d like to get rid of some now but it’s hard without transport.😂I kind of wish the postage people came to my front door??? Like that would make life so much easier pls and thank you, postage people.

    (Although I confess I keep books if they look good in my rainbow.😂)

    • BWHAHAH I was thinking hard emotionally but…. good point, honestly! I feel you with shipping- someone from Greece wanted two books and it was $23 for some old paperbacks. Like come on, the girl just wanted some books! Rude, postal service. I know here, you CAN have the postal people come to your house! Someone paid shipping for some of my old ARCs and the mailman just took it and went away, it was crazy and beautiful! And um, can I confess that I keep books if the cover is nice enough too? because I DO. 😂

  18. Though I prefer print books, I get rid of them almost immediately after reading them — pass them to friends/family, give them to school, or trade on PBS. We have almost NO space in our tiny house, so it’s a revolving door of books! I took a box to the used bookstore today and got $42 trade credit. My son happily spent most of it on comic books. LOL At least they take up less space. Most of the books that went into the box were kids’ books that my children don’t read anymore. I also put in a couple that I read but didn’t think any of my friends would like.

    Do you have Plato’s Closet nearby? Since you have so many YA books, I bet you’d be able to get some cash there. Could also consider a Facebook yard sale group — but I wouldn’t do individual books. One big box for $XX. I bought Women in the Walls from you a few weeks ago and just finished it. Thanks 🙂

    • WOW a $42 credit!? I wish we had a used bookstore, oh my goodness! I feel you with the space- I was soooo lucky to have a ton of space but now the downsizing is so hard! I actually DO have an easier time getting rid of books I read and didn’t love though, so maybe that’s good!

      Actually I DO have a Plato’s Closet! I never thought of that! That is a great idea, I am going to check that out, thank you!! And I hope you liked it! I was moderately confused by it haha but I liked the atmosphere!

  19. Theresa

    This is something I need to work on. As someone who never bought books until a few years ago, I can’t believe how many I have. My goal is to keep only the ones I really really love and/or have met the author and they are personalized (though I have given some away that are personalized that I just did not like). I was fortunate enough to meet a teacher at an event that teaches in one of the poorer districts in my area, so I have already given her a few boxes of books. I already have stacks of some more I want to give her.
    I have thought about trading or trying to sell, but honestly, I’m just too lazy. My library does book sales so some of my adult (not YA) will end up there!

    • YES same actually! I never bought books until I started blogging- I had some ebooks, and maybe a handful of favorite physical books but like, probably less than 20 total! That is SO nice that you were able to give some to a teacher! I’d like to do that, because I know they’d go to good use. Eventually I may try to find someone who can use them like that! And seriously, I don’t blame you because trading and selling is HARD- and definitely not worth the tiny amount you might get hahah

  20. I donated about 60-70 YA books to my old high school a couple years ago. I didn’t realize I had garnered so much, and it felt good to give them to my old english teacher. When I was in high school (2004-2008) I remember being frustrated, because the school couldn’t afford buying books that my generation would actually enjoy (the ones we had were like from the 80s). I barely remember most of the titles now, so clearly they weren’t as important to me like I once thought.

    • WOW that is SO sweet of you! If my high school was still a thing, I would love to do that! And you have SUCH a good point- I never even bothered with the library at mine because it was so pitiful! I’ll have to see if I know anyone with a need!

  21. Tammy V

    It stresses me out to get rid of books I haven’t read. I know sometimes my tastes have changed or it is just easier to read on Kindle but hate letting go of the physical copies. It is something I need to do though. A lot of the ones I had before I got a Kindle I’ve read on the Kindle or just not interested in them at this time. Yard sale with the whole family this year so good time to clear out I guess.

    • YEP same- it is easier to get rid of the read ones, somehow. I think it’s the whole “but what if I WOULD HAVE liked it?” thing. Oooh a yard sale is a good way for sure- like you just have to find ONE buyer who is into books and you’re golden!

  22. I am currently in the process of doing a massive clean-out of my books. I have ARCs from 2013… that I never read. So I’ve been donating a lot, asking my friends to take things they want, but mostly donating. At first, I felt guilty about it but my place is too small for all this stuff so it has to go. PLUS they are taking up space of the books I already know I love.

    Thanks for sharing,
    ~Brittany @ Brittany’s Book Rambles

  23. Hahaha these tips are great. AND YES I AM THE FRIEND THAT YOU GIVE ALL YOUR BOOKS TOO! The other option is that maybe you just buy a bunch of new shelves? Like that works, righttt?

    I honestly just take all my books (mainly unwanted ARCs) and dump them in the donation box near the grocery store. Problem solved.

    • YEP you are! Did you ever get them by the way? That concerns me, especially with my shitty packaging. And yeah, new shelves WOULD work, but you know my next bedroom is noot ever going to be as huge as this one! Sad. So sad. I might try to donate them to… someone. Someplace, Idkkkk.

  24. I am THE WORST at culling my books, so these tips are super useful! Hopefully one of these days I will be able to take your advice and actually do it! I wouldn’t count on it though….
    Awesome post Shannon! <3

  25. “Look, we all know what you have to do: go through every single book on your shelf, …” which for me usually means I notice that I don’t dust nearly enough so I get distracted, pull all the books from the shelves and start dusting away, putting all the books back on the shelves and not removing a single one. But, hey, I dusted!

    Oh, there is one more option, sell your books at Half Price Books. I did this before a short weekend trip and came away with $17 that I got to spend that weekend.

    Great post, Shannon! 🙂

  26. oh my gosh, I actually have to cull my shelves again because I always end up with so much crap I’m never going to read (and admitting it is the first step)! Great work with your culling, it looked like you did really well with it!

  27. Oh gosh, the amount of books! I can’t imagine the time it takes to dust and clean your shelves. I’ve honestly never done a book culling before! Like the idea is new to me! All of my old books are stored at my grandmother’s house and it has been years…maybe, if ever, I’ll donate them.

  28. I’ve still not managed to get rid of the books I removed from my shelves. My struggle is simply that I can’t drive so getting my unwanted books to somewhere which will take them is hard. I do think it’s great when you finally get rid of books, though. You feel so much better.

  29. I always love reading how people decide what books to cull so I am glad you wrote this post. I am actually trying to go through my books and reduce how many books I own. If it’s a favorite author, I usually keep all books by said author. If I re-read the books, I will keep them. If I read the book once and plan not to read them in the future, I usually will move the book into a donate pile. Books that I have and plan not to read them in the near future go straight into the donate pile.

  30. This is such a brilliant post, I love it – and thank you for the tips! I really feel like I have to do this, at some point, a massive un-haul, because it’s slowly getting out of hand… I’m running out of shelf space and it’s when your books start piling up everywhere that… you realize you can’t sleep in a bed made of books 😂😂 thank you for sharing this!! <3

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