Have you ever had a big clear-out of books?

Have you ever regretted letting go of certain titles and acquired new copies?

I have! I had a big, big clear-out when I left London to come back to Cornwall. Never before had I been so ruthless with my books.

The books that come back, earlier this year, were by Anthony Powell: the twelve novels that make up A Dance to the Music of Time. I had read them and I told myself I’d probably never read them again. Out they went! But then Laura started a journey though the series, and I remembered just how wonderful it was. When the whole series turned up in mint condition on the Oxfam Shop. I couldn’t resist, and now they are living in a box in the attic, ready to be reread.

But that wasn’t the acquisition that inspired me to write.

I cleared out another series of books, and when they had gone I missed them terribly. There were five of them and I have picked them up, one by one, in charity shops and on ReadItSwapIt. The fifth arrived a couple of days ago, and so my quest is complete.

Sybil Marshall’s Swithinford novels evoke life in an East Anglian village quite wonderfully, and I am delighted that, one day, I shall be able to visit again.

But please tell me that I’m not the only person to have done this … cleared out books only to acquire them once more …

17 responses

  1. Oh how I know what you mean. After I finished university I felt I did not want to see a book again. I cleared out loads and especially my books from childhood. Slowly I am not getting back my Roald Dahl books, and all them Enid B I had as well.

    It even goes to books later on when I started reading again. I think I will look for it only to find it has been given away. Now I really think long and hard before giving a book away to friends, charity or swapping it. I have to remember that I live in a flat and although my neighbour underneath is very nice, I do not think he wants me popping in ceiling first with all my books for a natter!

    Never heard of Sybil Marshall before, look forward to hearing all about them.

  2. I also know what you mean and that is one of the excuses I use for not cleaning my bookshelves. Altho’ the argument is somewhat silly in that in this age of internet, you can pretty much get any title you like with enough money. :-}

    Have not heard of Sybil Marshall, but as I grew up in East Anglia and am returning to England tomorrow for a holiday, am planning on searching some shops there to see if I can track her down. She sounds really interesting…

    liz in texas

  3. Nope, definitely not the only one. I have picked up loads of books I read years ago and had forgotten about until I spot them in second hand book shops. I love finding them again – it’s like an old friend visiting. I especially love it if I find the book exactly the same copy as I had i.e. I recently found a 1980’s edition of Charlotte Sometimes and the cover brought back so many memories. I also recently found a whole load of old Agatha Christies (again 80’s editions) and I could have cried with joy! Such memories 🙂

  4. I have not regretted most of the books that I have sold or given away. There are two exceptions, ‘Chance’ by Joseph Conrad, and ‘Metamorphoses’ by Ovid. At least in the latter case I can make the excuse that I can look for a different translation.

  5. I keep telling myself I have to be ruthless and weed out those books I’m never going to re-read and actually have released quite a lot recently. So far without regrets. But it’s those books I read years ago that I loved and know I kept, except that now I can’t find them – surely I didn’t give them away? I’ve had to buy several books because of that!

  6. I have never really cleared out books, so have not had this issue…! I read one Sybil Marshall years ago (Once Upon A Village) and bought a few more since then, but they remain unread so far…

  7. This is the very excuse that I use to justify not getting rid of books. Moving house has promted a semi-clear out though: at the moment I have a large stack of books sat in the corner of the living room waiting to be taken to the Book Exchange and so far I’m not feeling the slightest twinge of regret about any of them (although admittedly I’m cheating a little bit as many of those are duplicates resulting from combining my library with my husband’s). I’ve not heard of Sybill Marshall before, but I’m intrigued now. One to look out for, perhaps.

  8. I feel your pain. When I was 16 (!) I cleared out a ton of children’s books, including all my Trixie Beldens. What was I thinking???? About 10 years ago (at 50) I reacquired the first 6 (the only ones I really regretted) through that astounding new medium, eBay. In the same editions, Whitman glossies with illustrations. An orgy of nostalgia ensued.

    Over the past few years, I’ve cleared out 100s of books, but of course, this scarcely make a dint (or is that dent?) Rarely any regrets.

    My process is to clear books out to a carton in the basement. Then, perhaps a year later, remove them from the house, first picking out the odd one I realise I was hasty about.

  9. A quick look at Sybil Marshall’s bio tells me she’s just the kind of writer I might really enjoy. And I can’t believe I’ve never heard the name. Will definitely track her down.

  10. I’ve done it more than once and since I ususally sell (read – take them my old books and spend tons more than I get on ‘new’ books) to Powells I am always surprised that I haven’t bought back one of my own cast offs!

  11. I did the same thing when I was a teenager, I got rid of a lot of childhood books, and I really regret it now. I have had to buy back many titles, however I am nowhere near getting them all back. I had gotten them at bargain prices (most of them 25 cents a piece) and can only afford to get a few here and there. Most of them are random titles that I can only find on amazon, and almost everything on there is at least $4.00. I wish someone had told me when I was younger to never get rid of books!

  12. I don’t have major clear outs all that often, as my groaning shelves and numerous boxes can testify, and I do tend to think long and hard before I clear any out. There have been more than a few occasions when I have consigned books to the charity shop/jumble sale and then realised a few months later that I really want to read them again! As a rule I keep any book that I have really really loved plus copies of classics although I tend to clear out thrillers, crime novels and the like more readily as I can’t see the point of re-reading that sort of book if you already know what happens.

    I remember reading the first couple of Sybil Marshall’s books in the 80’s – A Nest of Magpies and Sharp Through the Hawthorn, and really enjoying them.
    I knew that she had written a third but I didn’t realise that there were two more as well – I will have to hope that I haven’t cleared out my copies and look out for the others. Thanks for the reminder.

  13. I’ve had to reacquire all my Elizabeth Goudge books, having been ruthless when we moved, as well as several other old favourites. Sadly, someone else cleared out nearly all my old children’s books accidentally at the same time.

    I haven’t read Sybil Marshall, I don’t think, but the titles look very evocative.

  14. Yes I’ve been guilty of being too ruthless in the past and ending up buying them again. Now I’m trying to de-clutter and I’m packing books into boxes but can’t remember if particular books have just been cleared away or cleared out! It’ll be interesting when we do eventualy down-size and unpack, hoping to rediscover treasures.
    I haven’t heard of Sybil Marshall but I used to live in East Anglia so I’m definitely going to look out for her books.

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