Linda Lewis Griffith

Do you need all those books?

I’ve been an avid reader all my life. I finish several titles each month. The bookshelves in my home and office groan under the weight of countless volumes. Some have been with me since childhood.

Like most bibliophiles, my method of reading has changed. The vast majority of my books now reside on my iPad. I’m no longer tethered to a reading lamp. I can look up new vocabulary with the touch of one finger.

All my professional research is electronic, too. There’s little need to turn pages when more current data is merely a keystroke away.

I didn’t give up my books easily. In the beginning, I promised undying allegiance to the printed page.

“I love the smell and feel of books,” I told anyone within earshot. Bookstores and libraries were hallowed ground. I was never going to sell my soul to cold, heartless machines.

But convert I did. And there’s little chance of going back.

Now I’m faced with a new quandary: What do I do with all the old books? Many of them are outdated — I long ago ditched psychology tomes from grad school — but many define who I am. One book contains an inscription from my dear Grandmother Lewis. I have a worn copy of “Gone with the Wind” that was given to me by a friend while I was staying in Atlanta.

At one time, my books made me feel smarter. I believed that walls lined with Shakespeare, Dickens or Hawthorne increased my self-worth.

Fortunately, I’m more confident now. And I’ve entered a different phase of life. My new goal is to declutter my environment. I have too much stuff that I no longer need or use. I want to pare back wherever I can.

Does that mean I’ll denude my bookshelves? No way. Some books are simply too special. Some I’ll read again. Others I love to share. But I will begin the process.

I know it’s going to take time.


Want to get rid of some old books? Here’s how:

Take a quick look at your bookshelves. Scan for books you detest, authors you don’t like or titles that have no meaning. Don’t deliberate. You’ll know right away what you don’t want to keep.

Start small. Clear off one shelf at a time. You’re more likely to make headway if the job doesn’t feel insurmountable.

Separate your titles. Make three categories. Some books you must keep. A portion of them can be shared. Others can go away now.

Donate them. Many worthwhile programs are eager to have your old books. For example, the Reading Tree disperses books to underfunded libraries and schools. Books for Soldiers creates care packages for overseas service personnel. Restorative Partners promotes positive changes in the SLO County justice system and needs paperbacks for its book group.

Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit