I’m starting to think I own too many books…
though I’m not sure how many is Too Many…
more than I could possibly read in one life time, perhaps…
certainly, more than I can keep track of…
More than once, I’ve brought home a gem from a charity shop only to discover I already own a copy. And often I recommend something to a friend, only to discover it’s gone into hiding. A couple of bookshelves are arranged alphabetically, but the sense of order soon descends into a chaos of anonymous boxes & To-Be-Read heaps. Then there are the archives… books I read to my children, books I read as a child, some dreadfully outdated and cringeworthy, but remembered with fondness & stowed somewhere I don’t have to trip over them on too regular a basis.
Whilst I defend any bibliophile’s right to say there is most certainly no such thing as Too Many Books, I’m ready to admit I currently own far too many for me. Though I tremble to type it, I’m planning a humane cull. It’s not terribly methodical, but nor was the way I amassed this lot in the first place. I’ve started by picking a random shelf, seizing a book and asking “will I ever want to read you?” Surprisingly, I’ve answered no more often than I’d anticipated. So long as I find a new home for this book, somewhere it can feel loved and useful, I’ve found I can set it free with minimal feelings of guilt.
How do I do this?
A very popular way of getting rid of books is to sell them online. This seems a perfect solution… your unwanted volume finds a loving reader & you earn a little cash to boot.
One downside is your book could fail to sell, doubling the rejection as well as calling into question your taste in reading matter. It’s worth persevering, but after reducing the price & relisting it a few times, you’ll be ready to give the pesky thing away for free.
Donating unwanted items to charity shops is generally a great idea. You benefit from a reduction in clutter, the buyer picks up a bargain, and the charity receives much-needed funds. However, charity shops are businesses and as such aim for a high turn-over of stock. They prefer good quality mainstream fiction, or valuable rarities… nothing tatty or well-thumbed. Just be aware that books which do not sell are destined for pulping!
Recently I’ve come across a book share shelf in my local train station. I’ve noticed that anything left here rarely hangs about for long, so I don’t feel guilty about dropping off my books and magazines & scurrying away. Sometimes book sharing shelves in stations, or even supermarkets, also have a donations box for a local charity. No threat of pulping, the book just sits patiently til it finds a new reader. Good karma all round.
Another way of passing on your unloved tomes to a more appreciative audience is to pop them in a Little Free Library. A friendly sticker on the front invites you to Take a book, Return a book, Donate a book. If you can resist the first of this trio, well done… the net number of books in your house has diminished!
Whether you want to borrow or donate, why not check out your local Little Free Library. I’m not sure why, but there seems to be an exceptionally high number in Waltham Forest, East London.
Finally, if you like the idea of giving books to complete strangers, Bookcrossing takes this one step further by adding the possibility of hearing back from the person who picks up your book. You only receive feedback from about one in ten of the books you set free & the recipients don’t always enjoy them as much as you did . I released an economics text book which was apparently used to light a BBQ!
So… in the past two weeks I have Bookcrossed, I have left novels on bookshare shelves & in Little Free Libraries & I’ve managed to sell one (of 35) listed on eBay. The overall book content of my house has gone down.
Just one small blip. I saw this on the train & I couldn’t just leave it there…
I sometimes give books to beggars, they have always been well received. And in Bristol we can leave unwanted books on the walls outside our houses, they go pretty fast. I like Bookcrossing too, it’s wonderful being able to track where books have been. It is great to see more pubs and cafes with shelves of books to swap. I keep books that are important to me, reference books that are hard to find and old friends I’ll read again. Snacky type books can usually be bought again for a quid in a charity shop if you want to re-read them, and there are still some libraries around thankfully!
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I love passing on books via Bookcrossing & free book shelves in train stations. Not sure I’d approach a stranger with a book… what if they hated it?
My biggest problem is the hundreds of books which I haven’t read yet. I find it hard to admit I’m never going to get around to reading all of them. And how would I choose which ones must go?