Friday Fun – Where Do Books Go After You Read Them?

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, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane 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. JacksonLisa 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.

headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie 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.

hennrikus-web2Julie 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.

dll2013Deborah 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.


24 thoughts on “Friday Fun – Where Do Books Go After You Read Them?

  1. I try to sell my books online, but the market is glutted with most of the titles I own. This past year I collected 600 children’s books and took them to a tutor center in Belize. I blogged about the experience and how excited everyone involved was about it.

  2. While I recently started to read Kindle content – especially for nonfiction books, I am still very partial to printed books. Organizing my book shelves, whether fiction or nonfiction, is something I find very relaxing to do. And with all the writing I do, my “work shelves” are neatly sorted out, as it makes my life easier when searching for references. As for the inevitable “to read” book shelf, it always grows and makes me smile, even when I don’t read them quickly. I am nevertheless prone to sell books when I know that I won’t reread them and that they can’t even provide useful references for further writing.

  3. I always found it difficult to part with books, and when my husband and I bought a house one of the first things I did was hire a carpenter to build me wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling book cases in the living room. But then, in 2011, we decided to sell our house and move onto a boat. We spent each weekend that summer at car boot sales, selling all the useless stuff we’d accumulated over the years. Obviously I couldn’t take all my books with me onto the boat, so slowly I began to cull them, taking them box by box to the car boot sales. The thoughts of selling my books killed me, but then I discovered the fun in selling them. I got to talk to interested and interesting readers. I started to want to find new homes for my books. I got into great conversations with buyers each weekend. ‘Oh, you like Toni Morrison?’ Well, if you like her, you’ll probably like Alice Walker’. ‘You’ve read ‘The World According To Garp’. Then you must read ‘A Prayer for Owen Meaney’. ‘Oh yes, I’ve got a great collection of magical realism over in this box’. Selling my books turned into a wonderfully enriching experience, watching my old friends, at 50p a go, flying off to bring joy to other peoples’ lives.

    There were some books I couldn’t bear to part with – A Suitable Boy, The Bone People, Moby Dick, among others, and all my academic books – and they went into storage in my father-in-law’s loft, or have been squirrelled away on the boat. These days I don’t keep books at all. I read them and pass them on. People say to me ‘I must return that book I borrowed’. But I no longer want them back. I want them passed on and on and on.

  4. They go on the shelves if I want to keep and reread them. Others I lend, most of which never come back. I tell borrowers to pass them on to others. Some I give away. Started a book club of sorts where old books I have read get passed around and shared so we all have something in common to talk about.

  5. I always thought the microcosm fairy came along and transported them to another dimension where dolphins could read them…oh sorry…thats my OTHER world I live in.. 🙂 sorry, just feeling silly today!
    In fact…Great Post 🙂

  6. I can’t ever seem to get rid of any of my books. If I never liked the book to begin with, I’ll donate it, but the books I loved seem to stick around. I have a whole wall of bookshelves just dedicated to these old friends. Many of these books have been reread half a dozen times and annotated. They’re well loved. 🙂 I do have a nook to try to maximize space (it was a gift) but I think that made it worse as I now have double the amount!

  7. By day, I’m a personal assistant- I assist people in organizing of their homes and offices by purging, tossing and donating. It’s what I do. Recently, it was my turn to downsize and move to a brand-new state. Drastic measures were necessary for two English majors to abbreviate our library. I packed up over 15 boxes and bags of prized, treasured, wonderful books and donated them to Book Passages Hospice Bookstore in Corte Madera, California.
    When the moving truck arrived and delivered all of our earthly possessions and I started putting my books away – I had forgotten how dramatic and pragmatic my purging had been. New city / new goal: find a and independent bookstore.

  8. Books in print now tend to go to our library – There’s a share bookshelf where you can leave a book, then take a book. Books are also sold in their yearly book sale – they need all the money they can get these days. One way to support literacy and reading in your community

  9. Thus far, unless I really dislike a book, I keep it and add it to my ‘library’. Those I cannot imagine I will ever read again, I either lend to friends and family while waiting to see if I change my mind, or donate to the local charity shop so that someone else may enjoy them.

  10. I love this question! Growing up, my favorite room in the house was our living room which was lined with bookshelves. I’d look up at all those weathered spines and wonder what stories were in them.
    The first piece of furniture I bought as an adult was a bookshelf. I love the printed page, and I love being surrounded by books. Every few months I purge my collection, donating the books that didn’t really stand out, but I keep the special ones. The mishmash of colors and sizes creates an interesting collage. After I’m done reading, a book becomes my form of interior decorating.

  11. I’m teaching reading and writing as a second career and plan to draw heavily on much great literature but simply don’t have the shelf space to accumulate print books, I’m making the shift to Kindle and Kobo. I’ll still keep copious notebooks and attempt to arrange them in an accessible manner.

  12. I love this blog! I was just pondering this . . . as I left Books-a-Million with two new books. I will only read this series once . . . so what do I do when I am done? But I love the covers and might wish to revisit a scene . . . I have a hard time parting from books. Might just have to erect another book shelf.

  13. I horde books like Smaug hordes gold. I’ve got books piled up in some form or other in just about every room in the house. There’s about 10 large boxes of books in the attic. I can’t give them up. They are… precious to me.

    On my desk there are currently 9 books, a few I’m actively reading through, the rest waiting to be examined (sniffed – the smell of a new book is like a heavenly scent), scanned and distributed. My halls are my library. They are lined with bookshelves.

    I keep mostly all my books. Very rarely do I lend them out. If indeed I do want to share a title I’ll buy the same book and pass it on that way.

    Sometimes, when I’m on the go, I’ll buy a handful of books without any previews. And, now and again, a flopper will get through. Those are the one that find themselves in the charity bag.

  14. …hi everyone …I haven’t been around for a while so happy 2014!

    Books, books and more books …I can never have enough …give them away when they no longer inspire or if they didn’t in the first place …otherwise I have a ‘monster’ book shelving unit …some are great for researching style or information …nothing goes to waste and I LOVE the smell!

    I remember receiving my first published book and sniffing it! *smiles*

  15. Hmmm. I feel quite inspired after reading this, to go through my books a little more ruthlessly. After all, if for some reason I need it again, i can always find it. I think a book sale could be called for, as well as the idea of leaving it as a present for someone 🙂

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