I used to live in a tiny apartment (ok, an even tinier one) in which every shelf and cupboard was full of books. Literally, every time I bought another book, I would give away an existing book, to make room. Since I had long ago removed all obvious reject material, this meant sadly considering all my shelves to find the least wanted of my possessions. Often, I would read bits of many books, while deciding. After a while, I realized this is an interesting form of reading. It is like hearing the prayers of the condemned, or picking the next man to throw off the lifeboat.
So, this leads to my latest idea to informationally reduce, restrict, and recycle: the de-Book Club. Traditional book clubs are about sending you a stream of new books, but how gluttonous, 20th-century, un-ecological, consumerist, and burdensome is that? More books is more guilt, more space taken up, more trash eventually.
I propose a book club in which, each month, you have to give or throw away 1% of the books in your library. Your reading, for the club, will be whatever reading is needed to choose the rejects, or to say goodbye to the soon-departed. Implicitly, you read your whole library, because every act of pruning gives greater awareness of what you’ve kept, and the shape of the remaining whole; which is to say, the shape of you.
As Herbert Simon said, a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention; so may an abundance of books lead to a poverty of reading. So, perhaps, a pruning of books may lead to richer attention.
Tim, this is brilliant! Yes, a conscionable reader will end up reexamining the works on the shelves to see whether a particular book continues to hold value for him or her.