Books become a part of our lives from the time we grab our first cloth page filled with colorful pictures. And some of us never let go of that attachment. Organizing books can then become a problem.
I realize I am treading on sacred ground when I suggest there should be a limit to the number of books we keep. Like everything else, you can only have as many books as you have space to store them. If you have 500 feet of shelving space, you can have many more books than someone with only 50 feet of shelving. And as a side note, it is not a good idea to store them in boxes in the attic since heat will deteriorate the bindings and pages. Besides, what is the point of having the books if you cannot readily use them.
Don't misunderstand my discussion here. I buy books, read books and love books. In fact I wrote one. (Check out my website listed below.) And I think you should buy as many books as you want and can afford. The issue is why you keep them and that keeping too many of them can create organizing problems. It is important to make wise choices in those we save.
Each of us need to seriously consider why we keep books after we have read them. If it is for reference, the information stored in them is most likely outdated by the time they are published. While historical books can remain accurate (until some researcher finds differently) that information is easily obtained online or at a local library. Everything from the mating habits of mallards to recipes for exotic meals can be located in seconds with online search engines . Some even include audio and video. What book can do that? So if it is information you need, be very selective in those you keep.
If it is the enjoyment of reading fiction, then it is unlikely you will reread those again. There are too many new books being published that will consume your attention and time. While some are classics, it is doubtful that you will go back to them and storing them on a shelf will not help you remember what is in them. Your brain does that. I will admit recall can be difficult, especially with age and I speak from experience, but you never really forget what you read. Some things you just remember better.
If it is a famous line or quote, putting even part of it on Google will bring up the entire passage. I have found entire poems of Robert Frost that I learned as a child. Refrain from printing these as you will add to your paper clutter!
Displaying more books does not make you appear more intelligent. Your speech does that. But once you have been very selective in the books you save, you want to store and display them on shelves or in bookcases. And it is a good idea to group them by categories. You may choose to group by topic, by color, alphabetically or with the Dewey Decimal system. The categories should be whatever makes sense to you. If you have a large collection, you may want to consider creating a file or database for them. One participant in a presentation I gave had over 2000 books and after listing them learned he had many duplicate copies. Keeping track of what you have is a good idea for many reasons.
Allow open space on the shelves. This makes a more attractive design. Inserting pictures, plants or other collectibles on the shelves makes a more interesting display. Some books may need to be placed flat on the shelves if they are too large to stand upright. Put those items together to make a stack of 3 or more so the arrangement is more visually pleasing. If your space eventually becomes full and you want to continue to buy new books, consider replacing an older book with the new one. Or you may choose to visit your local library to see what they offer.
Those books you choose not to keep can be donated to family members, local hospitals, nursing homes,schools, libraries or favorite charities. Keep receipts for tax deductions. They may also be sold at yard sales or through online outlets and auctions. You will be doing yourself and others a favor by moving them on to those who will use and appreciate them.
In the future, electronic books may become the major source of reading, but I personally think we will always have printed books to enjoy. Consumer choice will be the deciding factor. This does not mean you should save every book as it may be so valuable you can send a kid to college or retire early with the proceeds from them. Antiques Roadshow has convinced many unwise souls their possessions are unique and valuable. (eBay can quickly unravel such thinking).
Being willing to let go of excess of anything including books is a basic principle in organizing. The more you do it, the easier it gets. You experience freedom and more space. It is a good example for your children or grandchildren, too. Buy and read books for enjoyment, relaxation, information and inspiration but save only those that are special enough to take up your valuable space.