Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Whether you are moving or simply running out of space, there comes a time in every book-lover’s life when she looks around her, at bookcases bulging with volumes, and boxes stashed in closets and under beds, and realizes–the books have taken over. If you’re one of the many bibliophiles in dire need of reducing your library and wondering how to go about it, fear not! I’m here to help.

First, admit you have a problem. Then, take heart; know that you can overcome the addiction, and purge the overflowing library. True, it won’t be easy, but it can be done!

The obvious answer in stemming the problem would be to simply not buy any more books. We all know that isn’t going to happen though, right? No matter how many books we already have, however many there are on the To-Be-Read (TBR) pile begging for our attention, there are always more out there clamoring for our attention. Rather than cut yourself off from buying new books completely, consider weeding out your existing collection.

I know, I know–how dare I suggest such a thing? Simple. It’s time to be honest with yourself and admit that you are NEVER going to re-read all of those books, and that your evolving tastes in genres means there are books in the TBR pile that no longer appeal.

Begin with the simple ones first–college textbooks. You know what I'm talking about. They’re the ones you couldn't sell back to the bookstore and that have been sealed in a box in the closet or basement storage space. No matter the subject or how long you hang on to them, it is highly unlikely that you will ever need or want that book again. Get rid of it!

Next, children’s books. If you do not have kids of your own, or are never visited by small children, it’s time to go through the “kiddie lit” and see what you can discard. Do you really need all those Little Golden Books? I’ll allow you the Shel Silverstein and the collection of Grimm’s fairy tales, but unless it’s a rare collectors edition, add it to the donation box.

Which now brings us to the remainder of your collection, and the part that gets more difficult. It’s time to go through those boxes and shelves, one at a time. Don’t feel this is a chore that has to be completed in one day, unless you are held to a moving schedule. Remember to be brutally honest with yourself, and admit that your reading preferences may have changed over the years. What you thought you might read or re-read ten or twenty years ago may no longer appeal to you. Admit that there are authors or genres you no longer like, and that you don’t remember what every book is about. If you cannot remember a book by reading the title or back cover blurb, consider discarding it. Also look for duplicate copies—at one time or another we’ve all bought a book we didn’t remember buying, only to later discover it in our TBR pile.

Once this chore is done, it’s time to decide what to do with the castaways. Unless a book is in truly poor condition, do not throw it away. Instead, offer books to friends or family. Set out a "free books" box in the lobby or cafeteria at work, or in the lobby of your apartment building. Encourage others to add books they no longer want to the box as well. Just remember that you are trying to get rid of books, not adopt all of those abandoned by friends, neighbors or coworkers.

If you want to try to earn a little money back on them, consider the following options:

--Sell at a Yard/Garage sale
--Sell to a used bookstore
--Sell online at sites such as eBay or Amazon

It is very unlikely, however, that you will sell all of the books you put out on the table and, since most used books go for very little (though hardcovers may go for a bit more than paperbacks), you certainly won’t make much money on them. If making even the smallest profit doesn’t matter to you, consider donating those books to a worthy cause. Here are some suggestions:

--Children’s hospital (many do annual book drives to restock their shelves)
--Schools (Daycare, Preschool, Elementary–check locally to see if they would be interested)
--Community Centers
--Church (for use in common areas, rummage sales, or donation boxes)
--Charity shop (Goodwill, St. Vincent de Paul’s, etc)
--Clubs (e.g.: Boys & Girls Club)

*Also consider donating old magazines to all of the above. In addition to being good reference material, many clubs or classes might also use them in art or other projects.

--Community/Senior Centers
--Charity shop (Goodwill, St Vincent de Paul’s, etc)
--Learning Centers/Literacy programs
--Nursing/Retirement homes
--Veteran’s hospitals
--Public Library (Many community libraries hold weekly or monthly book sales to raise funds for new material or equipment)
--Jails/Prisons (Check locally to see how to go about doing this. Many correctional institutions only allow books sent via a bookstore or publisher, however, some also allow donations through special programs.)
--US Military Troops through such programs as, or

--High School or University libraries
--Learning Centers/Literacy programs

True, thinning out your private book collection will be no easy task, but it can be done–and think of the pleasure your old friends might bring to someone else in need. Not to mention the extra money for those sold, or the room you’ll have for new books.


Anonymous said...


No! Not my textbooks! *hugglesthem*

Gwen said...

Oh, sorry - that was me! lol

I dunno about this whole 'purging of books thing' *looks skeptical*

I still have wall space . . .

Gina Ardito said...

There's also a place called Book Crossing ( which is kinda like releasing your books into the wild--after tagging them, of course. The idea is you register your book with them, paste a Book Crossing label with an ID number inside. And then you leave your tagged baby somewhere public: a train station, an airport lounge, whathaveyou.
And you can go online to see where your baby travels!

Best of all worlds: you're giving back and yet you get to keep an eye on who gets their grubby hands on your precious!

Heather said...

ROFLMBO Gwennie - but totally know how you feel. I confess that I am not giving up my French and English tomes, but everything else? They're gone, baby. Unlike the old history and science texts, I actually have opened an English or French lit book on occassion. For pleasure, no less!

(And yeah, like you my theory is I can always go up. If there's air between the top of the bookcase and the ceiling, that's wasted space, lol)

Gina~ Oh! I always forget about bookcrossing. I have been to their website, but have never actually released anything into the open.

Brandon Checketts said...

For books that might have some resale value, you could try looking them up on which compares prices from about 30 different sites. Typically recent textbooks will fetch the most money.

You could also try some book Swapping sites like and where you can trade your books with others.