Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.
QUESTION: If you still read print books, what do you do with the books after you’ve read them? (Also assuming they aren’t library books or loaners from friends that need to be returned!)
Diane MacKinnon: The only time I buy print books these days are if they are books I know I want to keep. They are usually nonfiction. I tend to mark up my books and return to them again and again. Once in a while I read a fiction book in print and those I will usually pass on to a friend. I used to hoard books but I’ve come to realize that if I ever really need to find a book again, I’ll be able to access it somehow–in print or digitally. That’s allowed me to donate a lot of books and helped prevent me from accumulating too many.
Lisa J. Jackson: Good question! I’m still an uber fan of print books (I have a Kindle with lots of books on it, but have yet to read any on there!). If a book gets signed by the author, I keep it. I have a few huge bins of books that will be with me for a long time. Most of the time I will either give my books to the library or trade them in at an Annie’s Used Bookshop for credit to buy other books. A select few books I’ll give away if I know just who to give it to – and even ask them to keep sending it forward if they know of someone else who will read it.
Jamie Wallace: Well, a good many of my books are still hanging around. I have a difficult time parting with them. The state of bookcases brings David Foster Wallace’s quip to mind, “Everything I’ve ever let go of has claw marks on it.” I not only have picture books that date back to my daughter’s infancy (She’ll be turning ten this weekend!), I have picture books from my own grade school days. I have novels I bought more than a decade ago and haven’t yet started to read. I doubt I’ll ever read them. I have leather-bound orphans from special edition collections whose remnants I bought at library book sales. I have tattered paperback copies of the SciFi favorites of my teen years (some of which may or may not have once belonged to the public library).
I am trying to mend my ways. I try very hard, now, to only buy books that I really (really) love. I borrow from the library more often than I succumb to the impulse to hit Amazon’s lethal One-Click button. I use my Kindle to sample things and then make an “informed decision” about whether to borrow or buy. I am also preparing (mentally and emotionally) for a major book purge. I know I need to lighten the load on my shelves, and I’m certain that many of these books would live happier lives elsewhere. It will just take me some time to work my courage up to say good-bye.
Some will be donated, like many before them, to local school libraries. Some will find their way mysteriously into the book basket at the local coffee shop. Others will be gifted to specific friends and acquaintances who I think might enjoy a certain tale. There will likely be a large and densely packed book table at the yard sale I’m planning for the spring. And, finally, a few may make their way out into the world to land in unexpected places – a picnic table in the park or a set on the train – with a note inscribed, “I am not a lost book. I am your book. You were meant to find me. Hello.” And then they will begin a new story all over again.
Julie Hennrikus: I have a lot of books. I don’t buy books often, but I still have a lot of them. My shelves are full, and I have three piles that need a home. Conferences give them out, friends release new ones and I go to their signings, you get the idea. Now here’s where I am with the question asked–I actually don’t wait until I’ve read them any more. If it is a book someone else would enjoy, I give it to them. When my niece’s school did a book drive, I gave them five boxes. I keep combing through the shelves looking for the next box to give away. When I have dinner parties, I offer books as parting gifts. I bring them to summer houses and leave them. I also donate them (especially the mysteries) to senior centers.
Deborah Lee Luskin: I live in a big house with lots of bookshelves that are filled, and there are stacks of books in each room of the house (including the kitchen). Some books come and go; many stay, including a completely filled bookcase of children’s classics in the attic! It’s easy for books to come into the house, not so easy for them to get away, but we’re working on it. And time helps: some of the old paperbacks simply fall apart. I try to take comfort in the idea that knowledge lasts forever, even if books don’t. Other books I give away; I’ve been pretty diligent about passing on duplicate copies from my teaching days. And with three grown children, books travel between our different homes, coming to rest beside someone’s bed. If/when we downsize, we’ll have to part with books. But in the meantime, even though I know I can find a lot of what I might need to know on the internet, I still like having the books around. If nothing else, all I need is a candle if the lights go out.