Why It’s So Hard To Throw Out a Book

One of the great privileges of the work I do helping thought leaders is that lots of people send me their books. Often it’s students and clients that I have worked with directly. Sometimes it’s more distant connections – someone who has reached out on LinkedIn or met me briefly.

These books range from profound and life-changing to very average.

I was recently cleaning up my office, and trying to get rid of one of the latter – a badly-written, poorly-thought-through self-published book with amateur typesetting and low production values from someone I’d never met. Something that probably cost $5 to print. I didn't particularly want it on my bookshelf, and I also didn't want to take it to an op-shop and inflict it on someone else.

But at the thought of throwing it out I had a visceral reaction – I felt this resistance in my bones to putting a book in the bin. It ended up going back in a box to be dealt with later.

Yet I have no hesitation at all throwing away brochures or pamphlets that are much better written and produced, and cost a lot more to print.

There is still something magic about a book. Not that long ago wisdom was passed down the generations through oral storytelling. Then in last few thousand years books took the place of those verbal stories. Up until a heart beat ago books were each handwritten and copied individually. And while humanity’s knowledge is now encoded digitally, a book is still the artifact that represents society’s accumulated wisdom in our culture.

Given how powerful a book is, if you’re a thought leader you’re crazy if you don’t write a book in your domain of expertise. But when you do, please give the artifact due reverence and put the time and thought needed to make it great.

I’d love to hear your thoughts – can you throw away a book? You can leave them below.