One Book at a Time by Allison Gray Giovannini

“Are you really going to keep all of these?” my husband asks. I stand there, panicked. This was the time I’d been dreading. We had three weeks to move into a new shared space. There were choices to be made and not a lot of time. Don’t get me wrong, my husband is an avid reader. But, he’s also able to read a book and then get rid of it. I, unfortunately, am not so gifted in the art of minimalism.


From apartment to apartment, I’ve lugged all of my books with me, many times picking up some additional friends along the way. Every single hardback, paperback, and college textbook has been nestled securely into a cardboard box, guaranteed a spot back on my shelf, likely only to gather dust until the next big move. Norton Anthology of American Literature, so nice to see you again. You should rest easy here next to the untouched-since-college copy of Poems of John Milton.


No, I did not want to keep all of these books. The thought of packing them again and then unpacking them made my head start to pound with dread and annoyance.


What I thought would be a peaceful conversation with myself ended up being more of an interrogation in the beginning: Why did I have so many books? When did I plan to read them all? How did this book make it into my collection and how come I’ve kept it for so long? What did having this many books mean to me? Many questions and not a single answer.


I needed a plan. To formulate said plan, I did what anyone would do–Google it. Luckily for me, there were many results under the search “how to get rid of books.” I tried searching “how to get rid of books without being so neurotic,” but that search wasn’t as helpful.


My first step was starting with one shelf at a time. I would look at the top shelf of the first book case with a critical eye. If I hadn’t read the book and have owned it for more than a year, it was time to let it go (with some exceptions). The second step was the college test. If I read it in college but could not remember what the book was about, to the donation box it went. The third step was to get rid of any book I was embarrassed by and could not justify owning it within 60 seconds.


The pounding in my head from dread and annoyance began to subside. I started to feel something new, something lighter. It was relief. No, I was not really going to keep all of those books. One book at a time, bit by bit, I created room for us to grow and create memories without “all of these these” things getting in the way.

Allison Gray Giovannini is a fourth grade teacher at KIPP Austin Comunidad in Austin, Texas. She enjoys the occasional Texas thunderstorm, drinking iced coffee, and being a passenger on long road trips. You can follower her on Twitter @ag_giovannini.