What do you do with your books when you've finished reading them?

I have these grand visions of a massive livingroom, with 2 of 4 walls lined with beautiful book shelves, full of books – top to bottom, with maybe a few picture frames & precious knickknacks thrown in for good measure. Obviously the reality is far from the dream….

I live in a nice enough 2-bedroom house, but I don’t own it. I rent, so putting up book shelves, while possible, cannot be done to the vision I have in my head. Instead, what I have is random piles of books all over the place (including a big plastic moving container full of books) & the couple of Argos book shelves I do have are filled to capacity.

For the first 6 years I lived in the UK I lived out of a suitcase, so there were no book shelves, so I didn’t keep my books, or at least most of them anyway. Every time I got to the point where it was time to move locations the 2 suitcases would get packed up & sometimes the clothes would be sacrificed in favour of the books. Most of the time, though, the books would be packed into envelopes & mailed off to Canada. Even after I settled into my first house I stockpiled the books & would pack a suitcase full of books, taking them home with me on each trip to Canada, rather than keeping them.

One thing I have never done, is give my books to a charity shop. Not really sure why, though. (I have never bought a book from a charity shop, either, but I know why that is – I’m a snob & would rather buy new. Also, I have a bit of an aversion to handling books that random people  have owned, handled & read). I know lots of people who do buy books from charity shops & I think it’s fantastic that they do, but just the thought of it makes my skin crawl. On the other hand, I just (most of the time) don’t see the point in hanging onto all those books that I know I will never read again, so why am I hanging onto them? We tried ebay & made pretty much nothing off the 5 books we did sell (never really believed we would make money, but had to prove a point. Why would someone pay more than a couple £’s for a book on ebay, then add postage on top, when they can go to Waterstones & buy brand new for not much more, or go to a charity shop & pay less?)

While trawling through the internet today I came across this article, which is what made me think about writing this post. I read all of the comments at the end & some baffled me, some I agreed with. I also found the list of most donated & most bought quite interesting. I wasn’t surprised about Dan Brown being # 1 in the most donated – I have read The DaVinci Code & it was crap, but all these years later, people are still buying his books en-mass. Why? The Stephanie Meyers books didn’t really surprise me, but one that did was Ian Rankin. But then, what is this list really indicative of? Are these the worst of the worst in popular reading, or is it just that these books sold so incredibly well that it’s  little wonder there are hoards of these titles in the charity shops?

So, while this is my dream (or something similar):

I suspect it will never quite become a reality.

So, what do you do with your books when you’ve finished reading them?

In case you were interested, below is the list of the most donated authors to Oxfam shops (with last year’s position in brackets):

1 Dan Brown (1)
2 Ian Rankin (2)
3 Jeremy Clarkson (8)
4 Stephenie Meyer (New entry)
5 Alexander McCall Smith (4)
6 Stephen King (New entry)
7 Maeve Binchy (9)
8 James Patterson (New entry)
9 JK Rowling (7)
10 Jackie Collins (New entry)

The Oxfam shop bestseller list (with last year’s position in brackets):

1 Stieg Larsson (2)
2 Sophie Kinsella (New entry)
3 Dan Brown (10)
4 Stephenie Meyer (4)
4 Terry Pratchett (8)
6 JK Rowling (3)
7 Mills & Boon (New entry)
8 Joanna Trollope (New entry)
9 Alexander McCall Smith (New entry)
10 James Patterson (7)



Filed under Life, postaweek2011

11 responses to “What do you do with your books when you've finished reading them?

  1. I’m afraid I’m currently at the ‘2 suitcases’ stage right now, so I get rid of almost all of the fiction I read (charity shops). I keep the non-fiction that’s useful reference or I need for work.
    Back when I had a more steady existence, I kept almost everything.
    I do love buying books at charity shops though. Particularly if the book is a classic. Weirdly romantic, I suppose, but there it is.
    I too dream of a house with whole walls devoted to beautiful bookshelves. We’ll see if it happens!

  2. I have a little book I have kept for over 25years. My daughter bought it for me from her nursery school library, with her little bit of pocket money. It is called Geraldine’s Blanket. I cry every time I read it! I am an avid reader as is my daughter. I have a box full of books I have kept over the years. I shipped out books when we moved from the UK to the USA. I have swapped books with friends and relatives. I also have a box full to give to charity or recycle! I have been a library member since my early school days. Although I have not sought out a library or book club since I moved here to Atlanta last year. Its on my list of things to do! Books are inspirational, educational and a little bit of a passion of mine! Like so many others.

  3. Other than my classic lit (that I read over and over again) I rotate my books out because I want others to read them as well and I know that I won’t read them again before they’re a serious dust collector on a shelf.
    I’d love to have those bookshelves, too.
    I think a lot of those books in charity shops are flash in the pan reads with no enduring value. Maybe I’m wrong but that’s my guess.

    • I would love to say that I am the same, but I just cannot seem to read classic lit – it bores me to tears! Lord knows I’ve tried, but nope, just cannot do it. Drives my OH crazy!

  4. Loved your post. The first picture on your blog looks like our “library”. It is a small room but has 7 or 8 bookshelves in various levels of disarray. There are also books in boxes on the floor and laying around everywhere. I am getting to the point that a kindle might be what I need in the future! The clutter is getting to me, despite the fact that we can and do shut the door to that room quite often!

  5. Heh, I find that many readers that I talk to all have the same dream.. to one day have a “library” in their own home.. It’s always been a dream of mine to have floor-to-ceiling bookshelves filled with books.. hence why I also keep most of my books up until recently. I used to rent a 2-bedroom condo unit (and barely had room to fit all my books) and now having moved into a 1-bedroom, I’ve had to REALLY get creative… started finally giving away my books on bookmooch.com and I bought myself a kobo so I could still read a lot, but just no clutter.. lol.. guess my dream won’t become a reality any time soon…

  6. When I was growing up that’s exactly what we had. My Dad had built floor to ceiling book shelves in our livingroom when he built the house & I suppose that is partly where my dream comes from. As a kid it was great to walk into our livingroom & be able to just pluck random books off the shelves to read.

    I’ll keep dreaming!

  7. I argue with my partner about where to put them.

    I like the list, Especially the authors who dont make the donations list but do well on the sell list. Terry Pratchett outranking JK Rowling makes me smile.

    Amazed theres a resale value on Dan Brown though.

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