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.