Too Many Mysteries – A Cry For Help!

As regular readers will have spotted, I’ve just moved house – a lovely farmhouse that’s older than the USA – and I’ve got my own study. Four walls – one of which is somewhat inflicted with damp – a ceiling and lots of space for my books. The first time in fact where I have my own shelf space to completely do with as I please.

So I emptied all of my boxes that I could find (and there’s more, as I didn’t come across my first edition of Captain Cut-Throat) and this is what I found.

wpid-20140727_172806.jpgThat’s more books than I know what to do with. Some of them need to go – but the question is, which ones?

I admit I’m a hoarder, but I can’t decide which ones will grace the local charity shop’s shelves. I think it’s safe to say that I’ll keep the complete(ish) series of my favourite authors – Martin Edwards, Kate Ellis, Peter Tremayne and, of course, Michael Jecks and Paul Doherty. Other books can easily be passed on – I really enjoyed Rivers Of London but I seriously doubt that I’ll read it again.

But what to do about the classics? Ellery Queen I think is a keeper – partly because if I change my mind, they’ll be a swine to replace. Agatha Christie – not sure, as they’re much easier to replace, and as I’m discovering by re-reading a lot of them, the mysteries are a little too memorable. It’s rare where I’ve completely forgotten who the murderer is. I think I’ll keep the best few but the rest can go. So bye-bye to They Do It With Mirrors, for example, but I might keep Sleeping Murder. Carr is a little trickier. I’ve got the complete Gideon Fell, for example, but am I ever going to re-read Death Watch? Or The House At Satan’s Elbow? Even for the sake of completeness of the blog? And what about, for example, End of Chapter by Nicholas Blake. It’s not easy to replace should I want to re-read it, but how likely is that? I’ve only got a few Blake novels, so completeness isn’t an argument for keeping it…

So, a call for help – well, advice really. What do you do when your shelf space starts running out? Which books get the chop and which books have a home for life? Or do you have a dimensionally transcendental bookspace…


  1. I’ve got the complete Gideon Fell, for example, but am I ever going to re-read Death Watch?
    I find the Carrs are surprisingly good on reread. When I moved from the UK to the US I sold a lot of my books, including my Carrs . . . and I was soon kicking myself. I’m replacing them piecemeal, and tending to reread them as I go.


  2. Generally, my cats pee on them, but that’s probably not the help you’re looking for. When we weed fiction at the library, we look at whether there is historical or sentimental value attached (e.g. a memorial donation), what kind of shape the book is in, whether it us easily accessible in other formats, whether it is getting enough use to warrant its continuous shelf residency – many things you are already looking at. You might inquire whether your local library can use your extras (if they are in good shape) either for their collection or for their book sale or a giveaway program such as a Little Free Library.


  3. We are fortunate where we live (northern New Jersey, US) to have an organization called BookBGone – – which collects old books and redistributes them to other libraries, schools, hospitals, troops serving overseas, etc. According to the website, they have distributed more than 300,000 books so far to those organizations and – as they put it – saved more than half a million pounds of books from landfills. My wife and I moved recently and had to cut back on our books (we still have one room dedicated to our bookshelves and a loft area as well loaded with mysteries and children’s books and others), and BookBGone came and picked up dozens of bags and boxes filled with our books, now on their way – we hope – to new homes that will enjoy them as we did.


    • Oh, hello, lesblatt! We live in northern NJ too! Thanks very much for the BooksBGone tip — I just wish I’d known about it last fall, when we did our last major pruning along the shelves. We gave twelve or fifteen boxes of them to the organizer of the local library’s sales, as we normally do, but we know she’s overstocked too. Next time I must try BooksBGone!


      • They really were tremendously helpful. Among other things, we had a fair number of theatre books and scripts to give away. BookBGone told us they donate such books to one university’s extensive collection of theatre books and scripts. Perfect match, because few other libraries are going to take that kind of material!


  4. I couldn’t part with any Carrs either (and certainly not Doug Greene’s books which i can spot) and I think you do have to consider how replaceable they might be – on the other hand, look, why not put the shelves up, fill all the space you can and only then make the hard choices – I would definitely want to put off such an evil day 🙂


  5. I have a varied approach which includes a number of questions – will I read it again? Have I lent it to everyone who would enjoy it? Was it a good example of a particular genre? Do I love it? Is it part of a series? and as you pointed out Will I be able to replace it easily if I change my mind? Then depending on the number of positive indications to be kept (any) it stays otherwise it goes. This explains why I’ve just had to buy a new bookshelf.


  6. I have been working on an ongoing project to get rid of some books I have read and won’t reread, or even books I thought I would read but now don’t think I will. I have boxes and boxes of books, in addition to shelves of unread books. But I will admit, in at least a few cases, in the past (10 – 20 years ago) I got rid of series that I ended up buying all over again (although I stuck to used bookstores and online used copies). So I can see why it is hard.


  7. I have a once-a-year clean-out of my library (due about now) where I take all the books off the shelves, and thoroughly dust both books and shelves. Before a book goes back I consider: Have I read it? Will I ever read it? Will I read it again? Does it have sentimental value? And, increasingly, can I replace it with an e-book version?
    Rejects go in boxes and find new homes amongst family, friends and colleagues.


  8. I look at it another way.
    For example, I have the complete John Dickson Carr/ Carter Dickson collecttion (excluding a few historical novels). Even though I am never going to reread some of them, I would be loath to dispose any of them. I look at it as a collector.
    Similarly, I have the complete collection of books by Ellery Queen, Agatha Christie, Conan Doyle, G.K. Chesterton and Colin Dexter. Even though I will never reread many of them,( I will not dispose any of them.


  9. Interesting question, but very much afraid each one of us have to find his/her own answer. If space is a problem I will probably decide on the following basis which books I would like to keep.
    1. Obviously those I expect to read again at any given time
    2. Those I have very much enjoyed and have some sort of special meaning to me.
    3. Those that would be difficult to replace and/or to find.
    4. Any special series or collection I might be proud of


  10. The only books I have been willing to part with (for the most part) are non-mysteries. I’ve slowly whittled down my classic literature, fiction and science fiction collections–keeping only the books I truly love (even if I don’t ever read them again–loved books are like friends and I can’t send them away). The only mysteries that get booted are the ones I really, really dislike and I know there’s no way on earth I’ll ever read them again. So–I’m really no help at all.


  11. Parting with books is an agony. When we moved a year ago to a ‘cottage for two’ it nearly killed me to put books in a garage sale and haul others to Good Will. You can’t part with the authors who are like your best friends. Acquaintances, well introduce them elsewhere. Just think how great you are going to feel with your ‘friends’ are organized and shelved sharing your new space, everybody happy again in their new home.


  12. I’ve just had a serious cull. Not so much of books I’ve read (I’m quite ruthless at getting rid of ones I’ll never read again) but of books that I’ve been sent and will never read at all. I’ve been honest with myself and my charity shop has done pretty well.

    To be honest it was quite a weight off my mind. Although I love being surrounded by books, it’s nice also to have a bit of space for new ones to come in. And it prompted a bit of a book buying spree of non-fix which was nice.

    Your farmhouse sounds lovely BTW. Hope you settle in ok. I’ve moved about 20 times in my life and I’m going nowhere at the moment!


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