Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Can a Writer Ever Have Too Many Books?

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell @LucindaSMcDowel

Tidying up guru Marie Kondo once wrote that after one particular purge, she ended up with only thirty books in her home. 


Why, that’s practically the number on my nightstand to-be-read stack alone!


My books are not just cardboard and paper. They are my friends. Each book contains not only unique stories and life lessons, but sometimes daring adventure, tender comfort, radical transformation, or courageous challenge.


The books that fill my home (and there are hundreds and hundreds I’ve collected throughout my six decades of life—not gonna apologize either) have mostly all been read! They are dog-eared and underlined. Many are signed because I have the great privilege of knowing so many wonderful authors who have blessed me with the fruit of their creativity.


As I sort through them, I am immediately transported back to the season and location of my first reading—who I was then, why I chose that book, and what I took away from it. So, you can imagine how difficult it is for me to do the necessary task of reducing my library. Giving them away seems akin (but harsher) than “unfriending” a true friend.


“A book is a soulish thing. It is physical—dots of ink and paper from old treesand yet it feeds our minds and moves our wills. We read with our bodies; with our wills we choose to have our thoughts guided by the words of another person. Books connect us with ourselves and with others—and perhaps with God.” (from Soul Keeping)


But the time has come, and I’m in a season where my kids have firmly informed me that I indeed do have too many books. You too? 


Maybe these ideas will help you navigate this part of the journey:

  • Be ruthless during the winnowing process. Decide how to prioritize your “keep” books. Don’t just ask, “does this spark joy?” but perhaps “did it change my life?” or “will I refer to it again?” or “is this a treasure to pass along to someone?” (for those, consider giving them now, not later.) Perhaps just keep one book from each favorite author. Of course, there are authors whose entire collections I most certainly keep – and you know who you are.
  • My husband and I prayed over all these 350 book friends—that each one would end up in the hands and heart of someone who needs the message. I found such joy just releasing them out again into the world, trusting God for who got what.
  • After neatly stacking all the books on shelves and tables on my front screen porch, I privately invited about twenty younger people in ministry/writing/speaking to drop by any time for the next couple of days and take whatever they wanted. I also set out about 25 bags of well-loved “speaker” jewelry. Those who came were free to browse and decide on their own.
  • After a few days, I sent the same invitation to my neighbors and a few local friends, including some very enticing photos of the loot. Finally, I took all the remaining books off the porch and down to my lawn by the curb, stuck a huge “FREE BOOKS” sign in the ground, and posted an announcement on all my local Facebook Swap Groups. 
  • Honestly, I had no expectation of how many people would actually take the books. But some did. And whatever was leftover was immediately loaded up in our car and taken to a charity store.  

Friends, who knew? It turns out you can—at a certain season of life—have too many books! I suspect you will know when/if that time comes. And I pray that you (and I yet again in the future) have the grace and joy in thanking God for each one, and then releasing them back into the world. 


Lucinda Secrest McDowell, M.T.S., is a storyteller and seasoned mentor who engages both heart and mind while “Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity & Strength.” A graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Furman University, McDowell is the author of 15 books and contributing author to 30+ books. Her award-winning books include Soul Strong, Life-Giving Choices, Dwelling Places, and Ordinary Graces. Lucinda, a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and AWSA, received Mt. Hermon “Writer of the Year” award and guest blogs monthly for ‘The Write Conversation.’ 

Whether coaching writers and speakers, pouring into young mamas, or leading a restorative day of prayer, she is energized by investing in people of all ages. As a communications teacher, she has served on the faculty of Speak Up Conference, Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, Florida Christian Writers Conference, Asheville Christian Writers Conference and co-directs the annual spiritual retreat reNEW – retreat for New England Writing & Speaking. Known for her ability to convey deep truth in practical and winsome ways, McDowell shares words from “Sunnyside” cottage in New England and blogs weekly at WWW.LUCINDASECRESTMCDOWELL.COM


  1. Lucinda,

    I have had a life-long love of books and because I write about books, they pour into my mailbox from authors and publishers. I've given away so many books they fill a church library in Kentucky. I'm constantly sorting yet reading new books--no we can't have too many books and do have to do something productive with the surplus. Thanks for these insights.

    author of 10 Publishing Myths, Insights Every Author Needs to Succeed

  2. Thank you for this great post, Lucinda. I can relate! We have a local Christian bookstore that has a used book section. I've read many great books, but know that most of them will not be read again by me, so I donate them to the bookstore and they are thrilled to receive them.

  3. These are great ideas, Lucinda, not only for books, but also for many other things older people accumulate over the years. And the children keep saying, "You need to get rid of some of these things, Dad and Mom." Thank you for sharing this very useful writing.

  4. This post came at exactly the right time. We are getting ready to sell our home and I need to thin out my beloved books. I have been trying to tidy up using the guru Marie Kondo wisdom. However, 30 books seems way to small. Thank you. Maree

  5. Thirty under one table perhaps. :)

    Great article!