Keepers and Giveaways: What’s On YOUR Bookshelf?

As my husband delivered yet another bag of books to the Arlington Library, the librarian came forward to thank him personally.  After all, even if nobody else gives the library gently read books for the next book sale, it will still be a success.  Singlehandedly we have donated hundreds of volumes, about nine out of ten that were formerly on our shelves.  Unless we finally call a halt, Michael will need ice packs and Advil for his sore back.

From the moment we decided to move, I dreaded the day the culling would begin.  How could I get rid of these precious memories, this invaluable information, this journey into the hearts and minds of my fellow authors?

More important, how could I afford to ship all those books to our next destination unless I did a little paring down?

Surprisingly, I have discovered the experience to be nearly painless.  An awful lot of shelf footage was taken up by research volumes that are now either out of date, or no longer necessary for future books.  I will not write another novel about Australian pearls.  I will likely never write another novel set in Louisiana, and if I do, it will be contemporary Louisiana.  I have said everything I care to about bootlegging, Irish immigration, and fox hunting.  Someone else may find those collections useful.  I truly hope so.

And the novels I always planned to read and never did, otherwise known as my TBR stack (to be read)?  Some will be packed, because a second look convinced me I really do want to read them. But others will find a different home.  I bought some of those books because I thought I should.  I can almost guarantee that I wouldn’t get to them or get very far in them if I kept them.  “Should” isn’t a word that I like to associate with reading.

What did I pack?  How did I decide?  First any book with a strong sentimental pull went into a box to be shipped.  The romance novel I bought when little-ole-unpublished-me first met author Jennifer Blake, who encouraged me to keep writing.  Or how about my collection of Amanda Doyle Harlequins and my Arthur Upfield Bony mysteries, which ignited forever a love of the Australian Outback?  Books by friends.  Books that remind me of important moments and events.  Books that made my heart sing?  Boxed them, all.

Research books were harder.  In the end I only kept the ones that targeted subjects so esoteric I might have problems tracking down the information online.  The Internet has transformed the world of research, and most of the time now, that’s my primary source of information.

Oh, but I did keep EVERYTHING about the Shenandoah Valley, because I really DO plan to write more in my Shenandoah Album series.

What would you have kept if you were in my shoes?

The bookshelves at my mystery destination will seem sadly empty.  For a while.  But I bet you know the truth about bookshelves.  There will be book sales wherever we move, and I’ll buy someone else’s discarded treasures.  A book here, a book there.  Not to mention all the brand new books I can’t live without.   Bookshelves fill quickly and soon overflow when we make room for new acquisitions.

And that’s exactly the way it should be.


  1. Deborah Tyson on May 15, 2012 at 8:29 am

    I would keep anything by you, Diane Chamberlain, and Kristin Hannah. I am happy to hear you are planning on writing more books in the Shenandoah Album series.

    • Emilie Richards on May 15, 2012 at 8:36 am

      Thank you, Deborah. And I’m going to be happy to write them, too. I may publish on my own, since that’s now much easier and more acceptable. But that sixth book has languished much too long.

  2. Wanda on May 15, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    I look forward to more books in the Shenandoah Album series. They are the books that lead me to you. They are definitely keeps on my shelf, along with Earlene Fowler, Jennifer
    Chiaverini, John Jakes Kent Family Chronicles and The North and South Trilogy, just to name a few. DH has his keepers also and then of course there are the children’s books that I keep some were gifts to me from my grandparents, others gifts to my boys and still others that were favorite read alouds when they were small. I am saving them for the day that I hopefully have grandchildren to share them with.
    There are many on my shelves that I know could go to other homes and I did clear them out a couple of years ago, and know it is time to do so again, but will wait until winter when it is cold and the sun is not calling me out to play.

  3. Becky in Georgia on May 15, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    I have a collection of autographed books that will always go with me. My favorite children’s books. So happy to read that you are planning to continue the Shenandoah Album series. Good luck in your packing:)

  4. Rosemary on May 19, 2012 at 11:41 am

    I love your books. I started with the Shenandoah Album series, I am quilter and moved on to Happiness Key. I just finnished Fortunate Harbor. I am making the Happiness Key Quilt from Pat sloan’s website. How can I get the book Treasure Beach?
    I also keep my favorite books. It is hard to decide what to keep and what to pass on to others? I don’t envy you having to choose which books to keep? Good luck on your move!

    • Emilie Richards on May 19, 2012 at 11:56 am

      So glad you’re enjoying my books. Treasure Beach was an online novella I did and removed at the end of 2011. The good news is that it will appear in a two book anthology my publisher is producing. So watch my website for that announcement once it’s available. It’s not at all necessary to read before Sunset Bridge. It’s just an extra story starring Olivia.

  5. Donalene Poduska on May 30, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    I am glad to read that you are going to do more in the Shenandoah Album series. I have loved each one and have recommended them to many friends. As you can tell, I am way behind in reading your blog! My husband and I try to cull our books at least two to three times a year. Some books our family will take but most go to the library sale. I have “books to read” in four large tote bags, two baskets, and a high pile! I do need to go through them and get them down to the ones that I really MUST read! Good luck to you in your decision and your move.

    • Emilie Richards on May 30, 2012 at 1:16 pm

      Very intelligent way to handle the towering book pile. Now that I’ve had to seriously cull mine, I hope never to have to undergo this kind of “trauma” again and do it regularly instead. 🙂

  6. Mrs JaneAnn Clear on May 31, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    I’ve had to do this twice and it’s never easy . Some books I never let go of and others I pass on to those I know will enjoy, that makes it easier. I’ve read ALL Emily’s books and some will stay on my shelf to read again. Lookin forward to new book.

    • Emilie Richards on May 31, 2012 at 4:32 pm

      After tossing so many books (to my library, of course) it’s a delight to hear that somebody finds my books are keepers. No sweeter words. Thank you.

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