If You Love It, Give It Away: A Book Lover Manifest
And why we should all have empty bookshelves
I’m not gonna tell you that I read a lot of books since kindergarten. We are all sick of these stories. But I’m gonna tell you about what I do to my books now, and the answer is quite simple: I give them away. And it’s not because I’m some idealistic dreamer that thinks everyone should just read more. The reason is more deeper than that.
A book can be a lot of things. Entertainment, knowledge, beauty, history, or simply someone’s idea. But one thing a book is not is a decoration piece. It’s not something to be displayed so others can think high of you. And sorry to tell you, but you won’t read again all the books you already did. You may reread some, but not all.
Should I Have Zero Books?
Definitely not. There are reasons to keep a book (more on that later), but you have to do this consciously. Keeping them “just in case”, or because you just "like them a lot" may be more selfish than you are aware of.
What About Rereading?
I personally believe in reading the same book again, specially a few years apart. As we change, the books we once read can have a whole different meaning now. But you should ask yourself these questions:
1: Every single book you have will be read again? Every single one?
2: If you give them away, won’t you ever be able to read them again? In other words, you have to own them to reread them?
The provocation here is clear: not all books will be read again, and unless your book is extremely rare or signed by a pasted author, you can always get it again, maybe even for free. Again, book-keeping must be intentional, because every book on your shelf is value not share with the world.
Book-keeping must be intentional, because every book on your shelf is value not share with the world.
What About My Favorites?
It’s not up to me to question the value you assign to your favorite books, or rather or not you decide to keep only the greater ones. But if you love books, every book you have has meaning to you, so it’s not enough to “keep only the ones you love”. Books are one of the most amazing format a human being can use to share a story, an idea or a feeling. Share, not store.
Books are one of the most amazing format a human being can use to share a story, an idea or a feeling. Share, not store.
What About Legacy?
Some people say they want to build a library for their kids. It’s a hell of a noble thing to do and I won’t argue against this. But I want to give you something to think about: books changes people, and people change the world. There are already a lot of someone else’s kids in the world that could be transformed by your books, and they can make the world a better place for your own kids. Just food for thought.
There are already a lot of someone else’s kids in the world that could be transformed by your books, and they can make the world a better place for your own kids. Just food for thought.
The Empty Bookshelf Movement
We all have a responsibility to the world to give back the value we receive. As a book lover, we all have a role to play: to share greatness in book format. We must be able to see beyond how we feel towards our books, and see them as tools to change the world. And they are not going to do this standing in your living room. Sure it’s nice to have a room full of books, but this is extremely selfish. The great irony is that we should all have empty bookshelves. As Charles Fink once wrote: "What you share with the world is what it keeps of you".