What do you do with the books you’ve read?

April 10, 2014 Thoughtful Thursday 14


Thoughtful Thursday is a meme hosted by Pamela at Reading is Fun Again. This week’s topic deals with books you’ve finished reading. What do you do with them? Do you keep them? Donate them? Gift them? Return them to the library? Throw them away? Make them into arts & crafts projects? Has this changed during the years? Have you noticed a change in your perspective regarding read books?

What I do with the books I’ve finished really depends on several factors.  First, do I have a print copy or an ebook? If it’s an ebook, storage is simple, so I keep it. My ePub books are cataloged and stored in Calibre, a fantastic (and free!) ebook management software program. My Kindle books are even easier, since they’re in my Amazon cloud… although I’m planning to store backups of them in Calibre, also.

Print books are trickier, because bookshelf space is starting to get really tight around here. We have multiple shelves in almost every room in the house, except the bathrooms. (Technically there are no bookcases in our bedroom, but the night stands both have shelves.) And we have 7 — no, 8 — bookcases in the basement, not counting the one that’s full of DVDs and VHS tapes and the CD shelf unit that’s full of audiobooks. Most of those bookcases are full. (The ones in Robin’s room are overflowing onto every horizontal surface except the bed.)

Some of this bounty is because we homeschooled for Robin’s last 6 years of school, and I haven’t finished getting rid of all the books we accumulated for that purpose: not just textbooks but reference books for science and history, and tons of classic literature, most of which we really don’t need any more. (I’m keeping some of the nonfiction history, the books in Welsh and Spanish, all the Shakespeare Folger Library editions, and a few of the other classics.)

Homeschoolers tend to collect a lot of books. (Not my stacks, but you get the idea.)

I’ve also got a single shelf (not a bookcase) of plays, courtesy of my bachelor’s degree in theatre and my years teaching drama to high school students. And several shelves of both fiction and nonfiction about King Arthur, from a decade-long obsession with the Arthurian mythos. Then there are the books I’ve indexed over the years; sometimes the publisher sends me a complimentary copy.

In case you haven’t realized it yet, I have a hard time letting go of books.  Because, well, books!  And because I might want to read it again someday.

Which brings us to the fiction. I really do reread the fiction I’ve enjoyed. In fact, I reread quite a lot, far more often than anyone else I know.  I’ve been known to read the same book two or three times in a year, if I really enjoyed it. I reread my favorite children’s and YA books, I reread mysteries (even though I can remember whodunnit), I reread fantasy. If I’ve loved a book, I’m almost certain to want to read it again.  I reread for comfort; the familiarity of a book whose plot I already know is easier to deal with, when I’m feeling stressed, than a new-to-me book with all its unknowns.

As a result, I end up keeping a lot of the fiction books I read. Periodically I go through and purge what I can — stuff I don’t read anymore, stuff I thought I’d reread but didn’t. Lately, I’ve been trying to adopt more of a “let the universe store it” mentality, on the principle that if I can borrow it from the library, I don’t necessarily need my own copy. This works fine until the night when I want to read a particular book and the library is both half an hour away and closed.  But I’m getting better at sensing which books will be reread frequently and which I’m no longer interested in.  I’m also more willing to let go of a physical book if I have an e-copy (assuming it’s not one I love, or for which the particular edition matters, or I like the illustrations.)

The word I’ve spent the last few paragraphs skirting around is collector.  I collect books — the books I love, the books that have meant something to me in my life, the books I think I’ll need again.  Like any collector, I try not to be a hoarder. It’s very easy to start down the slippery slope of thinking I need every book I want to read.  Not so fast! Libraries exist for a reason, and it’s not just because my book budget isn’t very big. Before I became a blogger, I cut way back on buying books, and borrowed new books from the library. (I do hate waiting while the 42 people ahead of me read the book, but it saves me both money and shelf space.)  If, and only if, I fell in love with the book, I bought a copy to keep. Now that I’m a blogger, I employ much the same rationale with review copies. If I love it, I buy a copy. Otherwise, I don’t need it — and the expiration date on most e-ARCs means I can’t keep them, anyway.

My downfall remains the library booksale. Used bookstores have gotten more expensive; I can’t afford to go crazy in them any more. But the library booksale? If I’m not careful, I leave with a box full of 40 books that cost me all of $50.  And given my review schedule these days, I don’t have a lot of time to read them. So there they all sit, in their box, until the next library sale, when they’re joined by another box!

My piles are getting bigger and bigger!

But the library sale is also how I get rid of books. Those periodic purges I mentioned earlier? We donate most of the books to the library booksale. It helps us, it helps the library, and it helps other families on a tight budget. I could try to sell some of them on Amazon, but the pittance I might earn isn’t worth the time and effort unless it’s a collector’s edition or other rarity, so I’d rather just donate them.

All of this reminds me that the next library sale is coming up, and last year’s box is still under a side table in the kitchen. Time for another purge! This time, I think I’ll tackle the unread books as well as the ones I’ve already read. Maybe I can reduce my TBR pile to the books I really do plan to read.

After all, the universe can store the rest. Right?

14 Responses to “What do you do with the books you’ve read?”

  1. Michelle Reed

    Reading helped me with my recovery, still helps me everyday. So the books I’ve accumulate all have sentimental value, even the one I didn’t enjoy. I will keep them all, like they’re trophies or coins you get during recovery. If… I do happen to get rid of them, it’s either to trade them in for more books or donate to my local library!!
    I love that you do the same, donating to the library!!!
    Thanks for sharing you thoughts 🙂
    Michelle ~ Book Hangovers Blabs Books

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      I keep some books for sentimental reasons, too. As long as you have space and it makes you feel good to have them, why not? Especially if they remind you that you got through recovery. But donating the ones you don’t want or need is great, too — they get to go on to someone else who might need them.

  2. katenread

    You know, when thinking about this question, I didn’t even consider my electronic books! I still haven’t quite integrated ebooks into what I consider my collection. Also, I wonder what my collection would look like if I had a Kindle (or like device) a decade ago. I love books, but really I don’t *need* to have as many as I do.

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      I said I keep all my ebooks, but I really should prune my ebook freebies. There are some I know I’ll never read. And I, too, wonder what my collection would look like if I’d had an ereader 10 years ago. Fewer paperback romances, probably, but the hardcover SFF and mysteries would be about the same.

  3. Herding Cats - Burning Soup

    Ack the library book sale is my downfall too. I usually go on the last day when a box is $5. This year I got 178 books for like $15. I mean. Couldn’t resist!

    I keep most of my books. If it’s library I return those of course but the rest I have a wall to wall bookcase in the guest room and they all fit in there. It holds about 1000 books. I’m almost full up but still have a bit of space. Enough for the rest of the year’s reads at least 🙂 After that…well. Gonna have to find another fun way to display them I guess 🙂

  4. Greg

    I used to “collect” books- years and years before I became a blogger I would grab a bunch of fantasy/ SF at the used bookstores (there were more of them then) and have boxes of unread books- just never got to them all. Now I’m a little more careful, but I still have a stack to read. I always did a lot of rereading too, and can relate to the “comfort” thing. Favorite fantasy series would get pretty dogeared. With all the books coming out now though I don’t revisit favorite books as much… but there are certain favorites that never get old.

    I would also have “good” copies and reading copies if it was a book I was really fond of…

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      Oh, I used to do that! The “good” copy and reading copy, I mean. I still do, when it comes to my Tolkien books — I have gorgeous leatherbound, leather-boxed collector’s editions of LOTR and The Hobbit, so of course I read paperback copies! (Anyway, the leatherbound ones are too big and bulky to carry around.) OTOH, I read hardcover copies of my Dragonriders of Pern trilogy, because my paperbacks are signed by Ms. McCaffrey, so I want to take very good care of them.

  5. Jan @ Notes from a Readerholic

    I’ve got way too many books right now. We donated some to the library (before we moved here and I have more to donate to our new library). I’ve given some to my kids and I’m going to try to sell some on Amazon, I think. I’m keeping some of my favorites, but giving up most of the physical books (except the Kindle ones, of course!) I’ve made the decision now I just have to get busy and carry it out!

  6. kimbacaffeinate

    I surround myself with them and dance naked to the book Gods. Bwahahaha! Well nit really. Years ago I kept them all, but after 6 major moves I have learned to donate and only keep the ones I truly want on my bookshelves. I have several of them and slowly donate as they become over stuffed. Truly if I could I would build my own library. However I do get great joy donating them to woman and teen centers.

  7. Cheryl @ Tales of the Marvelous

    Ha, the second half of this post began to sound very much like me! I read nearly every new-to-me book from the library, and only buy a copy if I love it. (I will buy a book unread by a beloved author, but that’s VERY few authors, and I’m frankly running out of books that qualify). But–the Library Warehouse Sale is my downfall too! I still only buy beloved books but…I tend to be more lax about buying childhood favorites, and that adds up, in numbers of books if not cost!

    When I DO have a book to discard, I try to bring things full circle by donating to the library…

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      I had cut back on buying books outside the library sales, too… before I got a Kindle. One-click combined with all those Daily Deals and other bargains is a dangerous mix…