Keep books, toss kids: Authors weigh in on Marie Kondo book debate
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Keep books, toss kids: Authors weigh in on Marie Kondo book debate

Japanese organizational expert Marie Kondo introduces her new line of storage boxes during a media event in New York on July 11, 2018. Are the volumes crowding your bookshelves classics or clutter? It's a question raised by tidying guru Marie Kondo that's spurred bibliophilic uproar online. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Seth Wenig

Are the volumes crowding your bookshelves classics or clutter? It’s a question raised by tidying guru Marie Kondo that’s spurred bibliophilic uproar online.

In her new Netflix show “Tidying Up,” Kondo suggests her makeover subjects winnow down their personal libraries by tossing their unread and neglected books, in keeping with her minimalist philosophy encouraging people to dispose of household items that do not “spark joy.”

Kondo’s sparing approach was met with backlash from bookworms on social media. Kondo has since clarified in interviews that the goal of tidying up is to determine what has value to you, and given the emotional online discourse, for many people that would be books.

For an alternative perspective, The Canadian Press asked authors to share their tips on managing overflowing bookshelves. Their answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.

Anakana Schofield, Vancouver-based author of “Bina: A Novel in Warnings,” to be released this spring — Interviewed by email

CP: What’s the best way to deal with a book collection that is taking up too much space?

Schofield: Build more bookshelves! Or get rid of other furniture. Or chuck out your husband or someone who is taking up valuable space which the books could fill. I jest, but obviously go through it and remove all fad books that weren’t interesting to begin with.

CP: What do you think of the idea that we should get rid of books that don’t “spark joy”?

Schofield: Categorically, I think getting rid of books that don’t spark joy is complete nonsense… The terms of art and literature are not the terms of self-help and tidying up. Does this book spark a question is a better metric.

CP: What does your book collection mean to you?

Schofield: As a working writer, my book collection is a working library, and so just like a chef needs staple ingredients and a saucepan, I need my books.

Alan Bradley, Toronto-born author of the Flavia de Luce mystery series — Interviewed by email

CP: What’s the best way to deal with a book collection that is taking up too much space?

Bradley: There is no such thing as too many books. Create space by getting rid of furniture, children, food, clothing and so forth.

CP: How do you feel about holding onto books you haven’t read and maybe never will?

Bradley: The problem might be that you’re not be ready for them yet. I am quite certain that a person who would dispose of a book would as easily dispose of love — or a cat, or a dog, or a grandmother.

CP: What does your book collection mean to you?

Bradley: In my library are books bearing the DNA of the dear hands that wrote them, or wrote in them, or the tears of those who held them and wept over them.

Ian Williams, Vancouver-based author of “Reproduction,” to be released Jan. 22 — Interviewed by phone

CP: What do you think of the idea that we should get rid of books that don’t “spark joy”?

Williams: (Kondo has) tipped the balance in a really extreme kind of position, but somewhere in the middle lies the truth. Don’t hoard things just because you have them. Sometimes, you do need to break up with your books.

CP: How do you go about ‘breaking up’ with a book?

Williams:  You say to that book, ‘I honestly don’t want to see you again. We don’t talk; we have no real relationship. You’re just here.’ …

Books are all tied up with our memories. Sometimes, I’ll look through a book and I’ll find a receipt or a postcard, and that’s really just activating a piece of my history. Books are also storage containers for ourselves. So you get rid of a book, and you also lose a kind of sensuous quality of your life.

Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press