3 for Thursday: 3 Things to Do With Unwanted Books

what to do with unwanted booksI consider “unwanted books” an oxymoron, like jumbo shrimp or government intelligence. So my first reaction to Apartment Therapy’s inclusion of books among the 10 items you probably own too many of was, you wouldn’t know a good book if it clashed with your sofa. But after nearly causing an avalanche trying to move some of the book boxes in the closet of my study, I realized they may have a point. I mean, not for me, but for some people, people who live in small spaces or are proactively avoiding being featured on Hoarders. (You know who you are.) So if things are dire enough to call for a book intervention, here are three reasonable options for your least-favorite books.

1. Sell them.

From paper fliers on your dorm bulletin board to Amazon’s resellers program, most of us have sold a book or two. But that’s not to say it’s easy. Despite the lure of extra cash (and really, unless you’re going to start a part-time used book business, you’re not going to make much), getting rid of books with your own marginalia is tough. Lawrence Tabak’s recent piece at The Millions, “Goodbye Old Friends: On Selling My Books,” makes a bittersweet case while delightfully documenting his own reading history.

2. Donate them.

Do you have a friend who’d appreciate that novel you’ll never read again? Happy birthday, friend! Or find out if your library takes book donations. The Institute of Museum and Library Services has a list of state libraries to get you started, but don’t forget your local school or university libraries, too, which may have donation programs or have a good suggestion about where to donate. Most libraries will receive donated books, provided no restrictions are placed on them. My local library hosts several book sales a year to raise a little cash while purging duplicates and items removed from circulation.

If your library doesn’t take used books (or, sadly, you don’t have a library close by), contact your local senior centers, women’s shelters, churches, or prisons to find out if they’re interested.

And it goes without saying that you’ll be a good donor. You’ll always contact the library or other organization first to ask if they accept book donations, and never leave them outside the door after hours. You’ll only donate books in decent shape; moldy or torn up books that are just going to get recycled anyway would rather you put them out of their misery instead of passing that job on to a stranger. And if you donate frequently, consider volunteering: librarians spend days sorting through their donation boxes and can always use a hand.

3. Trade them.

Sites like Book Mooch and Paperback Swap exist to help you connect your unwanted books with people looking for them, and help you locate specific titles for yourself.

Or go the local route with the Little Free Library, offering the “take a penny, leave a penny” approach to book sharing. Use this map to find a Little Free Library near you. The best part? You never know what great titles a neighbor may have just dropped off.

And now, be honest. How often do you purge your library? What’s your preferred method?

In search of belief changing ideas