Against spring cleaning: The books the Lit Hub staff just can’t let go of.

James Folta

April 18, 2024, 1:42pm

If you’ve ever deep-cleaned your bookshelves, you’ve likely faced some hard choices over what to hang onto and what to donate to the library. As much as you might want to clear space by off-loading beat-up copies, shelf redundancies, books you know you’ll never finish—some books just defy decluttering.

The Lit Hub staff looked through our stacks and found a few books that we just can’t bring ourselves to get rid of.

the bone clocks mitchell

David Mitchell, The Bone Clocks

I have two copies of this and very much only need one… except that I read it as a (beautiful, signed) ARC and then some time later got a (beautiful, signed) slipcase hardcover from Powells, because I heard that the final published version had some significant changes re: links to Mitchell’s expanded universe of stories. My thought was that I could compare and see what was changed—but it has been nearly a decade now and I’ve not done it. But I’m keeping the two copies because how can I choose? (Drew Broussard)

the artist's way julia cameron

Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

I have so many kind-hearted friends who keep insisting I do this course and uncork my inner artist with the help of God and morning pages. I’m temperamentally not the kind of person or writer this book is for—I don’t put a lot of stock in the definitiveness of creative systems—but every time I consider getting rid of this book, I chide myself up for being too judgmental… “Maybe I should just listen to my pals, and give The Way a go!”

And so: I have yet to write any morning pages or take myself on any artist’s dates, and have now moved this tattered copy to five different apartments. (James Folta)

The Alchemist Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

I think a well-meaning aunt gave me a copy of this book when I graduated from high school. It can’t leave my clutches because 1) it’s lovingly inscribed, and 2) most used bookstores are full up on this title. I believe it is to the secondhand book market what John Denver’s Greatest Hits is to yard sales. (Brittany Allen)

The Plague 8.52.00

Albert Camus, The Plague

I’ve hung onto this particular copy because it has the most chaotic highlighting I’ve ever seen in a used book. In the first few chapters, the only things that are highlighted are medical details about plague, and then the rest of the book is filled with question marks in the margins.

I’ve begun to imagine that somebody bought this book based on the title alone, desperate for advice on how to cure themselves or their community of an outbreak but instead, found a bunch of existentialism. (James Folta)

arena william forstchen

William R. Forstchen, Arena (Magic: the Gathering #1)

There’s a whole subset of “books I read as a kid” that I’m hanging onto for hazy half-formed reasons of memory and/or in case I have a kid—the complete first run of Goosebumps, the full Animorphs—but this one is a particular treasure, because there’s a scene involving a hot spring that was 100% my read-this-too-young sexual awakening and as the saying goes, you never get rid of your first spicy book even if it is embarrassing. (Drew Broussard)

caro power broker

Robert Caro, The Power Broker

I really want to believe I’m gonna finish this someday. Or even pick it up. I bought it in good faith–because I aspire to be the person who knows esoteric details about the creation of the Triborough Bridge and assorted city parks. I’m a resident, damnit. But at 700,000-ish words, the length of this doorstop is just too daunting. I worry Robert Caro will sit on my mantle, in judgment, forever. But I can’t bear to admit my civic failure and send him to the stoop. (Brittany Allen)

redacted book cover

[Redacted Author Who I Am Acquainted With], [Redacted Book Title]

I’m sorry, I’m probably not going to finish this book, but I am tormented by the thought that some day, this person will be at my apartment and ask, “Hey, where’s my book?” (James Folta)

+1, except that I am more tormented by the idea that they will not ask this question, and will instead just think it, and begin nursing an elaborate grudge that only many years later will explode in a fountain of bile and brimstone, under which I shall sink, shouting “it was just in the other rooooooom.” (Emily Temple)

220px The Pushcart War cover image 1964

Jean Merrill, The Pushcart War

My copy of The Pushcart War has experienced some water damage. Um, that is to say that even aside from the dark brown stains on all the pages, it smells, and not in an “oooh….books!” way. We’re in “yikes, what’s that?” territory.

But this is the copy of the hippie cult classic ‘60s chapter book about taking down The Man with a peashooter that my dad read to me when I was a kid, and it is still legible, and therefore I will be keeping it until my own daughter is old enough for me to read it to her. If she finds the experience stinky, well, that seems like a fair trade for two years of dedicated diaper changing, doesn’t it? (Emily Temple)

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