What To Do With (Unwanted) Books?

19 August 2009

It's a horrible thing, to think about unwanted books. But face it, it happens to the best of us. We collect books like no one's business: galleys from trade shows, advances from the office, bargain books from the remainder aisles of, oh, any bookstore, used titles from street tables, gifts, and just things we just plain craved and (gasp!) ordered from Amazon.

How we accumulate books is probably bookworthy in and of itself, yet another title that many will buy and then eventually clear out as shelves are purged to make room for new books. Or, in some cases, to make space for the return of our favorites.

The question is not, therefore, "Do we have too many books?" (yes) or even "Is it time to clean out?" (probably) but rather "What on earth do we DO we these books when we decide to get rid of them?" If you're anything like me, the mere thought of throwing away a book causes physical pain, but that doesn't necessarily mean that every book gets to stay. I live in New York, after all. Space is at a premium.

I've got a bunch of answers stored up on this, but first want to know what you do with yours. Ready, set, comment.


  1. After almost 15 years working in publishing, I've only just started selling used hardcovers at the Strand, that at least is an honorable death. I've also started having sidewalk sales (for my comics mostly), and at least that way they wind up in someone else's home--hopefully being read. I'll have plenty left over, trust me. Once I put a box of books on the curb, tears welling up, but the box was taken before sanitation ever got there...and so the battle wages on.

  2. My youngest daughter donated her "younger" books to an urban center for underprivileged children. It was a tough chore, going through all those books, but she enjoyed re-living her joy of reading, and learned one just can't reread Nancy Drew: once you know whodunnit, it kinda loses its appeal. All said and done, we packed all the nooks and crannies of the car with books, and delivered them to the center to start a library! Now if only I could do the same with my own collection!


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