An Excess of Books

Nancy J. Cohen

What do you do when you have too many books in your house, and you can’t possibly read them all? Give away the print books and switch to Ebooks? That’s one solution. I prefer to be selective about the print books and combine my reading of paper copies with my Kindle reads.

Recently I had the occasion to sort through two cartons of books sitting on my dining room floor since who knows when. They contained an assortment of books obtained from conferences and booksignings. This examination became necessary when our recent ceiling remodeling had us moving loose items of furniture from the room, and we noticed flying insects along with coffee grounds material against one wall. And—uh,oh—they were in the boxes of books as well. My bookshelves are overflowing; I had no choice except to box up the surplus.

I reverently removed each book, dusted it off, shook out the pages, and stacked them on top of my washer in the laundry room. Noting the dust on the open bins in which I’d kept them, I resolved to obtain some sealed plastic containers from Target. But first, I really should decide which books to keep.

After making an appointment with the termite inspector, I proceeded to weed through the dozens of books. I made a pile out of the ones I knew I’d never read, the ones whose pages were yellowing, and the ones that only mildly appealed to me. The remainders I put into those plastic containers I’d just bought for that purpose. Hopefully these closed bins would not allow insects to penetrate even though it might not be ideal for preservation.

So what to do with the giveaways? These are not books I’d written, mind you. Those are in cartons as well and need a thorough inspection. But these discards deserve just as much respect. So here are the choices in giving away print books:

1. Donate them to the local library for their book sale.
2. Trade them in at a used bookstore and get some hard to find backlist titles in return.
3. Give them to a booklover who will enjoy them.
4. Bring them to an assisted living facility or other needy place that will accept them.
5. Donate them to the library in your housing community building which could be similar to the master planned community Epperson, if there is one. If not, you could possibly start a library there with permission.
6. Offer a couple of dozen each as a contest prize (but only the newer books). I got this idea from another writer who does a Rafflecopter contest for her gently used books.
7. One of my FB friends suggested setting up a Sidewalk Lending Library. Maybe she has nothing else to do, but I’d rather just donate the books to the community center and set one up there. Plus you might need a vendor license for this option.

Do you have any further suggestions? And no, a bonfire is not an acceptable option. Where do you store your excess TBR print books if not on your shelves?

34 thoughts on “An Excess of Books

  1. A Goodwill bookstore just opened up in a shopping complex not far from my home. I love going there to get books at a much lower cost than purchasing online.

    I feel terrible that I have hundreds of printed books I haven’t had the time to read and I think about all the money I spent at Borders and Barnes & Noble throughout the past couple years.

    I feel like it’s time to scale it back, especially with the economy these days. When discretionary spending takes a dive, it hits my recreation fund first. Beer is in my lush fund.

    You can’t beat Stephen King for $2.00. 🙂

    • The Goodwill store would be a good place to donate books. I feel guilty, too, about all the books I’ve acquired that I haven’t read yet. The problem is, I’m still acquiring more books only they’re digital ones now.

  2. I have a large family and we (most of we…lol) love to read. So, I circulate my books that way. Many of my co-workers read the same genre I do, so we also circulate books.

    I have to say, I’m quite the book hog. I do have a Kindle and a Nook but there is nothing like holding a “real” book in my hands or seeing them on my bookshelf.

    • A book hog, I like that term. I like having a real book, too, but now I find them harder to hold over the long term. A Kindle is easier. If they cost the same, though, I buy the print version.

  3. Many of my colleagues here at the high school join me in having their students take part in SSR, or Sustained Silent Reading. We do it one or two times a week, for about 20 minutes, and the students HAVE to choose something non-school related. Most of them choose fiction. We do this because often the kids who “don’t like to read” have never had experience with anything other than school books. They’ve never heard of Sports novels, or High Fantasy, or Cyberpunk, or Mystery (other than cozies, which is what many of them think ALL mysteries are). So I buy used books by the ton to keep for my kids to peruse on SSR days, just in case, and many of my colleagues do the same. So my first suggestion would be to see if any of the middle or high schools in your area have similar programs, and donate there. If not, school libraries can always use new books, especially if they haven’t had the budget to thin out the 30-50 year old never-read books and replace them.

  4. I’m sorry to say I’m not very creative about offloading used books–time is always an issue for me so when I have books that need to go, they go straight to Goodwill.

    However physical books is no longer the problem. As soon as I got my Kindle I quit buying fiction in print. And the non-fic titles I have I will retain for my reference.

    But on my Kindle I have HUNDREDS of unread books. Luckily for me, they aren’t taking up physical shelf space so it’s not an issue. But the problem with the Kindle is remembering which books I have read and not read. For fiction I have a folder that’s called “Fiction Read” so that’s easy. But I have tons of file names for non-fiction works, so that gets a bit confusing. But it’s a happy kind of confusion. 😎

  5. I need to go through my shelves to get rid of books I know I’ll never read. It’s a time consuming task, though, along with all the other stuff in the house that needs to get done.

    • I think I’m the person you mentioned who’s having a contest to get rid of books I either won’t read or won’t read again. You don’t have to do it all at once. I’m giving away a box of books at a time. Yes my shelves are still cluttered. The hope is that they won’t fill up with more than I’m giving away.

      Terry’s Place

  6. I can’t stand to part with books. Mostly we hang on to the hardbacks. The teensey print in the paperbacks means most of them have to go (Goodwill). The moldy ones gotta go, too. I can’t bear to part with the old paperbacks from Elmore Leonard and Ross Thomas, even if they do give off a particular odor.

    I keep a huge list of books to check out, rejected books and books read. That’s kinda interesting.

    • I keep a list of books I’ve read now, too. That is helpful. But the yellowed and moldy ones have to go. They might be the source of the insects we’ve found. Hardcovers do last better than paperbacks.

    • I could never part with my Zane Grey hardbacks, but I’ve been debating with myself to get rid of my slew of Star Trek paperbacks. Some of them I’ve read a dozen times, but not recently. But I can’t yet bring myself to give them up.

  7. If you have a VA hospital in your area they are often willing to take books that will put either in waiting rooms or in the library for their assisted living centers / homeless rehab centers. I often give old books there, and make sure to donate a few copies of my new stuff as well.

    In my hometown of Salcha Alaska, population 800 spread out over about 1500 square miles of wilderness, there was no permanent library. We had a library van come out every other week from the big city of Fairbanks 50 miles to the west. The van enabled folks to check stuff out and return other books. You could even request specific titles that they would bring out with them the next time they drove out.
    There was also the unofficial “honor system” libraries in my Uncle’s Salcha General Store and in the cafe at Salcha River Lodge 10 miles down the Richardson highway. These little libraries were basically collections of books donated from
    folks throughout the area. Folks who lived in the bush were able to borrow books and return them whenever they came back to town, which may be months between visits.
    There were also a couple collections like this way out in the middle of no where in public use cabins that that pretty much anyone could use for shelter while they were running their trap line or on a long hunt. I was always amazed at how well read some of those scraggly old sourdoughs were. Men with long beards and long hair who hadn’t bathed in weeks, yet could quote Shakespeare or Hemingway at length, and often memorize large portions of the texts they’re reading with astonishing accuracy.

    • That is nice when folks start libraries in out of the way places. Our Starbucks and local diner have shelves with books for people to take or leave more. Your suggestion for a VA facility is well taken, too.

  8. Oh…by the way…the eBook version of my first novel, KARL’S LAST FLIGHT is free on Amazon all day today and tomorrow…check it out and share the word.

    Another title you can read over and over then, like BK said, move to your “already read and really loved it” folder on your Kindle. 😉

  9. With stacks of books on top of my dresser, over-stacked up top my PC shelves, on top of the overflowing bookcase, in cardboard boxes … I purchased a nook, and then I pad.
    I gave a bunch to the Veterans Hospital where I go.
    Another bunch I gave to an assisted living center.
    Some books I figured would get more respect recycled into a more useful product.
    Then there were those that I could not part with. They seemed to have a hold on me, so I put them back in the box, back on the shelf, and in a new stack on another shelf.
    There is magic in some books that seem almost supernatural.

  10. Yes, there is magic in books all right. I’ve bought some plastic bins to transfer my books from the cartons. Afraid we have moths eating the cardboard. No more room on my bookshelves.

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