I finally overcame my Inner Cheapskate and signed up for a paid account on Library Thing, which allowed me to list all of my books instead of being limited to 200. (Interested in looking at my shelves? I'm boswellbaxter there.) I've still got a few things--most of my books about Dickens, for instance--to get on there, but I'd say well over two-thirds of my books are listed now.
It's not as impressive a list as it would have been about fifteen years ago, because repeated moves and a shortage of space have caused me to be pretty ruthless about culling my collection. Sometimes I've wished I hadn't given a book up, especially when it's one that's not readily available in libraries. For the most part, though, I haven't missed what I've gotten rid of--a lot of books, such as the couple I had by Virginia Woolf, had a certain snob appeal but were gathering dust because having read them once, I didn't have the slightest interest in reading them again. Other books I gave up because although I enjoyed them for a while, my tastes changed to the point that I no longer had any desire to re-read them.
There's a little group of books that I've had since the 1970's, however, mostly young adult books that I read when I was in my early teens. Some of them are by authors who are still known, such as M. E. Kerr, and others are by ones who have long since vanished into the shadowlands of Amazon, such as Leona Klipsch. I've dragged them up and down the East Coast for thirty years, and I still like to re-read portions of them from time to time. I suppose one might call these comfort books, which is odd because my adolescence was a time I couldn't wait to outgrow and a time about which I'm not at all nostalgic. All of them were reasonably well written, but a couple of them, like the Klipsch book (Treasure Your Love), were quite formulaic--nice girl falls in with mean clique, starts turning mean, comes to senses, asserts individuality, drops out of mean clique, and wins approval of nice boy who's been waiting for her to drop said mean clique. (Wasn't that the plot of the recent movie Mean Girls? I guess some things never change.)
Anyway, I really can't explain why I've held on to these books, but I'd be scrambling to replace them if they were ever lost.
Book culling has also been on my mind because I recently signed up at PaperBackSwap.com. (Because all mailing is calculated at United States media mail rates, it's currently available only to those areas served by the United States Postal Service.) It's a pretty good deal--you list books, pay the postage to ship them to members who request them, and earn credits that you can use to have books shipped to you by other members. I've already shipped five and am waiting for three to arrive, so it seems a cheap and pleasant way to move unwanted books off one's shelves and replace them with books one wants. I haven't had much luck finding the obscure historical fiction that I lean toward, but I've found a couple of things that I've been wanting. It's also fun just to see what shows up as newly listed--I've seen both Pamela Anderson and Henry James make an appearance.
Now that I've achieved my lifetime goal of using "Pamela Anderson" and "Henry James" in the same sentence, I'll retire for the evening. Toodles.