great book purge

I’m going through my books for the first time in several years, certainly the first time since I became a published author myself. Once you become published, you receive many, many free books — books to blurb, books that your friends and/or colleagues have published/written/edited, galleys you pick up yourself at various conferences, etc. At first, this bounty is delightful, and then it is… less so. Your library, once a product of self- (and perhaps partner’s) interests, is now a far more motley, or at least random, crew. You end up with, say, every single book written for the Young Adult audience about sixteen-year-old dead/dying girls. (And there are many good ones — I certainly liked Before I Die by Jenny Downham, and I blurbed The Everafter by Amy Huntley.) But just because you once wrote a book about an almost sixteen-year-old dead girl, your interest in such material isn’t necessarily as boundless as it might appear.

Though it goes without saying that I will donate my spare books to NYPL or some other Very Worthy Place (suggestions?), it still makes me feel guilty somehow. I find it difficult to part with the books I haven’t read, even if I’ve been lugging them around since I was a teenager. I find it equally difficult to part with the books I have read and actively dislike — as a writer, I find that I learn as much from the books I don’t like as the books I do. I even find it difficult to part with the books I was only lukewarm about — what if I need to consult them at some later date? Even things you only liked so-so can have unanticipated future value. For instance, I spent a good ten minutes thinking about whether I would ever read [A Certain Selection of the Oprah Book Club That Shall Remain Nameless] again. I like the scene where the main character goes on a shopping spree. I remember liking the bit with the wedding ring, too. I might want to read these scenes again some day. And yet, we must be firm! In the bin, it went. And did I need to keep Breaking Dawn? It’s hard to imagine ever reading it again, and yet… H. hasn’t read it. And H. likes to read series to their finish. (It was very stressful to him waiting all those years for Stephen King to complete The Dark Tower.) Furthermore, Breaking Dawn is the only book I have where a pregnant woman drinks blood from a sippy cup. So it stays. For now. It can join Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin in the “demon baby” section.

Speaking of demon babies, can I interest any teachers/librarians (with American mailing addresses) in the audience in a classroom set of Love is Hell, the anthology I participated in along with Melissa Marr, Scott Westerfeld, Justine Larbalestier, and Laurie Faria Stolarz. I am embarassed to say that I have yet to read any of the other stories. Based on the periodic Google Alert about the matter, 51.2% of readers seem to dislike my story. All the other writers fare much better. If my Very Hard Sell has worked for you, e-mail me at with the subject line: CLASSROOM SET LOVE IS HELL.

Finally, my adult novel, The Hole We’re In, was on last week’s New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice list. (You can read the full New York Times review by Malena Watrous here.) Also in last weekend’s New York Times Book Review, Julie Just’s smart essay about parents in young adult books. As a person who writes young adult books and the occasional screenplay, I think I’m qualified to make the following analaogy: Parents are to Young Adult Books what Cell Phones are to Screenplays. Discuss among yourselves.