Claire Potter reads Brooks Palmer's Clutter Busting: Letting Go of What’s Holding You Back:

For academics, four shelves of books, double-shelved, that you have never read says:  “I’m worried I’m not smart enough!”  Or, “Maybe if other people see these books, they will recognize that I am smart.”  Meanwhile, the books sit there looking at you, sending another silent message:  “You bought us, now you are stuck with us.  Before you get to your own writing, or any reading that would give you pleasure, you have to make good on the promise to read us."

I had a library cull the other day. I'm an outlier because my hatred of clutter is particularly pathological and publishers send me books for free as part of their marketing - but it was remarkable how many crappy books were still sitting there, glaring at me. With iBooks and iPads, their accumulation is as unnecessary as sitting on piles of CDs. So my goal is to decide which 200 books are worth keeping to read in my dotage. In itself that's an interesting exercize in literary criticism.

But I remember the days when I would think of something I had read that would be apposite for a piece of writing and scour through several possible books to see if I could remember the precise source. I relied on my margin scribblings and indexes, and, of course, I could end up sitting on the floor reading something completely unrelated, while my asthma kicked in with the dust.

Now? Google. The hours saved. The shelves cleared. And the serendipities missed.

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