Sorting books, with cat assistance

Regular readers will recall that shortly before we moved to Texas, I cut down my library very substantially.  I made a rule for myself at the time that I would not add more bookcases to our new home.  Instead, if I bought more books and wanted to keep them, I had to discard others, to make space for them in our existing bookcases.  As I’ve gathered research materials for my Western novels, and added a few books here and there that I want to read, that’s become problematic;  so it’s time for another sort-through and discard of books I haven’t read in the past year, and am unlikely to get around to anytime soon.  I’ve already accumulated enough new and new-to-me books to fill in the space thus made available.

It’s going OK so far.  I’ve been able to maintain a 10%-15% discard rate as I work my way along my bookshelves.  However, packing the books into boxes for disposal is another matter.  You see, Ashbutt, our kitten, insists on helping.

When not jumping into boxes and getting in my way, he brings springs and other toys to me to be thrown for him.  I’ve had to fish them out of half-empty bookshelves several times already this morning.  If I don’t pay him what he considers to be sufficient attention, he’s not above ambushing my ankles, biting gently at them as if to say, “Hey – remember your priorities here!”

I’m going to have fun when all the boxes are packed for disposal.  You see, I’m going to invite Old NFO, Lawdog, Phlegmmy and ae_pilotjim to come over and pick through them, taking what they’d like to read, before I donate the rest to a local library and/or thrift store.  I’ll have pistols and sabers on standby for the inevitable duels over who gets what!



  1. The Straw Boss has put me under restriction for a zero sum gain on books. She feels stack of paperbacks and hard covers takes away from the fung shui of my office. This led to negotiations for the de-cluttering.

    We have agreed on the following rules.

    1) I do not have to get rid of any books I received as gifts
    2) I do not have to get rid of any books signed by the author.
    3) I do not have to get rid of any books 50 years or older.
    4) Four magazines = one paperback.
    5) Ten magazines = one hard cover.

    I've sacrifice a number of old Safari Times but I believe I'm going to be mailing more books to people in the near term.


  2. "before I donate the rest to a local library and/or thrift store."

    Years ago, when I was travelling for work almost every week, I'd buy a paperback every week to read on the plane. When I moved to Indiana, I decided to cull the herd, so to speak, and gave 200+ paperbacks to the USO club at the airport in Denver.

  3. Your attempt is admirable, but perhaps doomed. What happens when all the expendable books are gone? Immovable meets irresistible!

    Plus, there is the antiquity factor. the longer you hang onto them, the more esoteric they get! Recently in a little out of the way bookstore, I found 13 boxes, double stacked with old paperbacks, the stuff we never thought twice about getting rid of.
    Except they were all 40's, 50's, and 60's, sci-fi and westerns, the books you can't find new anywhere these days. EE Smith, Van Vogt, Heinlein, Anderson, etc. Sometimes, reading the old books is like a vacation to a time and place where sanity still existed. Especially the old kid's books.

    Truth is, I keep few fiction books- most of the bookcases are filled with reference volumes of one type or another. Although the pocket reference guide to speaking Urdu is of somewhat limited utility.

  4. Ah, the unkindest cut of all.

    I was at the mercy of my Uncle Sam for many years. I would accumulate books. They filled the shelves and then the window sills until I moved on and left them behind with whoever would take them. My sister is an author of such repute she gets free books every day to review and turns to me to say, what do you do with 300 books that need a new home? There is always an answer. Me, I kind of like sticking a handful at a time into those little libraries you see popping up everywhere. Kid's who read like to expand their horizons and nothing does that like science fiction. that's what i think.

  5. Helpfulness of the cat can be measured by the amount of additional time taken per the task at hand. We have a longhair that is similar. Almost 10 years old and he's still pretty much a kitten. He digs out his springs and races about the house batting them and crashing into walls, doors, and other inanimate objects. Tick*Tick*Tick*CRASH*Tick*Tick*Tick*MEOW*CRASH… Usually at early hours in the morning for greater effect. Another behavior to watch out for is he loves to ambush me while my attention is distracted by the computer. 18 lbs of cat, accelerating at 32 feet per second per second, across 4 paws of approximately 1/2" square each deployed onto Dad's lap. OOF! Enjoy!

  6. Ah, Gorky Park! Great book. Martin Cruz Smith spent barely a week in the Soviet Union, but still managed to describe Moscow at night in the snow by the river with pinpoint accuracy. His follow up book, Polar Star, was good as well.

  7. I've been replacing anything that has an electronic edition, so long as it's not illustrated with anything more elaborate than monochrome line art. My Kindle doesn't do justice to photos or color plates.

  8. Obviously Ashbutt feels that you need close supervision, and he must want to be sure you don't discard any important books.

    Besides, one of the trying parts of packing up books is you are constantly lifting the previous books up so you can add more to the box. You have a bookend in your box!! Such a helpful kitty!!

  9. I'd cry if I had to give up Cities in Flight, that is the first story I have strong memories of reading as a youngster.

    Have you considered selling on Amazon or ebay, not so much for the income but to try to find the books good homes?

  10. Don't teach your cat how to read.

    After a cursory lesson that teaches the cat what "cat" and "CAT" mean, there will be no end of pestering over new product packaging that shows up for domestiCATed things, sophistiCATed tastes, and so forth.

    On the other hand, the cat will more reliably be able to tell you when it's time to replace the CAT litter, although the cat will also more reliably be able to annoy you to the point of overfeeding the cat.


    Yeah, it's a CAT treadmill, max speed 40 mph. 🙂

  11. Also, have you considered selling your books on Abebooks?

    After reading Nicholson Baker's "Double Fold" long ago, I decided that if I were to donate any books to a library, it would be a bulk donation with conditions attached …

    Such as the condition that all books donated would be kept on-hand until replacements in better condition were acquired, just for starters.

    Otherwise, I trust the people buying books for private collections to do a much better job of preservation than most of the public libraries in existence.

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