To Keep or Not To Keep

By Michelle Miles

I was going through my books yesterday while trying to think of a topic for this month’s entry. Yes, I procrastinate. What can I say? I work best under pressure. Anyway, so as I was pondering my topic and cleaning my bookshelf, I decided that some of the dusty books would have to go by way of donation.

So I got to thinking about what makes a book a keeper. When my boyfriend reads a book, he insists on purchasing the hardback and shelving it on his bookshelf. He only keeps the ones he’s read. I’m guessing this is a practical practice for people who are short on space. But when you’re a book-hound, it doesn’t work that way.

I get books all the time. Some are handed to me for free. Some I buy, some are given to me. All are not read and shelved. Most are in the TBR pile. Some I read the second it gets into my hands. Others are put on the backburner while I finish reading the book I couldn’t wait to get. And don’t even get me started on eBooks… I have a ton of those too all stored on my Nook (I can happily say I’ve read most of those!).

As I went through them all, making stacks around me, I thought about what makes a book a keeper to me. A great story, sure. Characters I can’t stop thinking about. Books, for me, are a way to escape and put me in a place and a time I can never go. I suppose that’s why I love fantasy so much. It’s putting myself in that character’s shoes, walking their life, reading about what happens to them.

I love Karen Mare Moning’s Fever series. I just finished re-reading Dreamfever for the second time. I hate the cliffhanger ending! I also LOVE the cliffhanger ending because I know there will be another book (only one—I really hope she does another series with similar characters!). I’ve followed Mac’s journey with voracious interest. And I’ve found that the first I read the book, I can fly through it, devouring it with glee. The second time I read it, I slow way down. I savor each and every word. I delight in the subtle nuances she pens. Definitely on my keeper shelf!

Another book I love is and oldie by Patricia A. McKillip called The Forgotten Beasts of Eld. It was the first book I ever read that made me want to write fantasy. We’re introduced to Sybel who can talk with her animals and they can talk back. She has a wonderful menagerie—from the boar to the swan. She’s brought an infant one day named, Tam, which changes her solitary life forever. It’s a magical tale, a wonderful treasure.

I’m a fan of Ms. McKillip’s work and have been for quite some time. One of her books, though, I was completely enthralled with was Alphabet of Thorn. Deep underground lays a library, which Nepenthe, an orphan, has become a translator of odd alphabets. She comes across a book with an alphabet of thorn and is quickly ensnared in the story of world-conquerors, Axis and Kane. It’s a story of romance and intrigue that will keep you guessing until the end—which has a twist!

Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston is another book on my keeper shelf. A YA story about Kelly, who wants to be in the theater, and Sonny, a member of the Janus Guard. It’s a story about fairies with hellhounds and kelpies. The two are drawn into a battle against the Fey and Kelly learns something about herself she never knew. Awesome book! (And it has a really pretty cover!) And there’s a sequel, Darklight, also with a pretty cover.

These are only my very most favorites. You can see from my list they’re mostly fantasy books. There are so many more to tell you about but I don’t have all week. ;)

And now it’s your turn – what is on your keeper shelf? What books do you treasure?

Michelle Miles loves books, writes books, drinks coffee and collects shoes. Find out more about her at her website:


  1. Fun post Michelle! Ah, "the keeper" i have many "keepers" ranging from Jane Austen to Georgette Heyer to Eloisa James to Julia Quinn in the romance category. I could go on for days in other categories. ;) But some of your keepers sound intriguing! hmmm, this is the tough thing - my TBR list is ever growing! Even though I read a lot - i'll never get through it. ;)

  2. I have a whole room of "keepers." My family calls it the a potential fire hazard. They just don't understand. So what if I've already read them. Two or three years later, they are just has great to read again. I have every J.D. Robb book (some are getting pretty tattered) and my first keeper, Judith of France by Margaret Leighton and The Sherwood Ring by Elizabeth Marie Pope. Both are YA and I've had them since I was about that makes them about the same age as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

  3. We've made so many interstate moves over the past 10 years that I'm always reassessing which books to keep, ie move, and which ones to give to others.

    But I keep anything by Laura Caldwell, Marcia Muller, and Barbara Samuel. I keep more than that but these are my favorite authors.

  4. I love Karen Marie Moning also. Cannot wait for the last of the series. I am planning on getting the e-books on my Nook. I am also hooked on Ally Carter's Gallagher Girls series and her new book 'The Heist'. I agree that it is so much easier being able to keep the books on the Nook now. You can carry your whole library with you wherever you go.

  5. I have a ridiculous amount of keepers on my shelf - Julia Quinn, Julie Garwood, Amanda Quick to name a few. For me, it's the familiarity of characters and emotions that are wrought when I read the books. I always turn to Julie Garwood when I want a read where the hero and heroine join early and never really part. Their black moment comes from the external usually and I like that. I also have some fantasy books on my shelf - the most notable is The Belgariad and Mallorean series from David Eddings. In fact, I have multiple copies of those series, just in case... of what, I have no idea! lol
    I love it when a book invests me in the characters. The plot also interests me, but it won't keep me reading as much as finding out what happens to those two people - how they meet, how they fall in love and how they achieve and hang on to their happily ever after.

  6. I love all these comments. I'm taking notes for future TBR piles to come. ;)

    Thanks everyone for stopping by!

  7. Other than the Jill Shalvis Shrine, which is almost every book she's ever written, I have 3 types of keepers. 1) I tend to keep books written by friends. 2) Series - I like to keep them until the entire series is finished. Kay Hooper's Bishop series for example - she uses characters that have appeared in other books, sometimes 3 or 4 books back, so I like to go back and reaquaint myself with the character. 3) Books I just absolutely love - I have one Nora Roberts book in my collection - Tears of the Moon. It not only takes place in my favorite place, Ireland, but has my absolutely favorite storyline - long-time friends who suddenly discover they are in love.

  8. I have 13 bookcases in the apartment and 2000 books in storage.

    When I don't want to keep a book, I put it up on BookMooch or give it away elsewhere. All books should find a good home.

    Keepers: Research books. I'd say more than half my books are non-fiction, books I accumulate when I research a project, and which come in handy later. I also have a lot of volumes of biographies and letters. When I write an historical piece, reading letters and diaries from the time period help me with speech rhythms.

    Fiction keepers -- books by friends and acquaintances, books that tell great stories, such as those by Sandra Worth, Terry Pratchett, CE Murphy, Ann Aguiree, Yasmine Galenorn, etc.

  9. My whole apartment is one giant keeper shelf - or fire hazzard, however you want to say it.

    The Narnia books will always remain on my actual keeper shelf, along with Roger Zelazny's Amber Chronicles and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's Saint-Germain series. And in non-fantasy reading, don't get between me and my Jo Beverley's.

  10. I used to keep everything, but I no longer have the space...during each of the last three moves, I've purged my shelves of 50-100 books. Now, as soon as I read a book, it goes to the used bookstore unless I think I'm going to A) read it again or B) study it as a model for my own fiction.

    I still have more than 100 books on my to-be-read pile right now. But my ultimate goal is to have a TBR pile of less than a dozen and nothing on my shelves but keepers. I don't know why it's so hard to let go of books! :)

    My keeper shelves include Tanya Huff, Liz Maverick, Jim Butcher, Lilith Saintcrow, C.J. Cherryh, Janet Evanovich, Suzanne Brockmann, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller, John Varley, Robert A. Heinlein, Kage Baker, Laurell K Hamilton, Roger Zelazny, Arthur C. Clark, Rachel Vincent, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Esther Friesner, Craig Shaw Gardner, Rachel Caine, Mike Resnick, Barbara Hambly, Simon Hawke (anyone else remember the Time Wars books?) and Terry Pratchett.

  11. I am a pack rat, and keep almost everything. My bookshelves are full, my closet in the spare room is full of boxes of books yet to be unpacked (from moving three years ago). There's no hope for me. :)


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