What makes a book a keeper?

I work at a small, independent new/used bookstore in my hometown. We get a lot of people bringing in books, hoping we’ll take them off their hands. Many times, the boss has to turn a lot of them away because he knows he won’t be able to sell what they have and there simply isn’t the room to hold unsaleable books. I can understand the donor’s frustration, though. They can’t just throw a book away. That would be wrong. But what do you do when the library won’t take them?  Or the used bookstore?

I sit here and look at my shelves of books. I’ve started paring them down, but somehow, I keep accumulating more than I purge. Several years ago, I started a system with the books I read. If I love the book and it’s one I want to keep, it gets a gold star. If it’s a blah book, but there’s a reason I want to keep it (I know the author, etc.), it gets a silver one. If it’s something I don’t ever want to read again and really don’t want cluttering up my shelves, it gets a red star. Thus, I can see instantly what books I want to keep or get rid of. And there’s been a lot of that of late.

So what makes a book a keeper? For me, it’s both characters and the story. I call it the “put-downable” factor. If I lose myself in the story and don’t want to put it down and can’t stop reading it, that’s a keeper. If I’d rather clean, do dishes, or some other chore than pick up the book again, that’s an instant red star and I will probably not even finish the story. I simply don’t have the time to waste on a book that doesn’t draw me in right away.

So what is your reason for keeping a book? What puts it on your shelves instead of at the used book store?

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