What to Do with All Those Books?

Are you a bookworm? Do you consider yourself a lover of all things erudite? Have your books outgrown the bookshelves in your home? Here is a guide to sorting through your books and deciding which should stay in your private collection and which might be best suited for a new home.

I will never forget the time a friend from New York City (he would have insisted he was “from Manhattan”) took a long and careful look at the bookcases in my Boston apartment. “Well…” he said, with a deep sigh, “what a bunch of college books you have here!”


Let me say this: your books are yours. Whether you are a bona fide collector or, like me, simply love books and save the ones you love best, books are treasures. When you are sorting through your books and deciding which to save and which to give away, let your personal taste be your guide.

If you are in the process of spring cleaning your home, or downsizing, or simply thinking about what you might donate this year, books are a great place to begin. But please, for the love of all things in print, choose wisely based on what you value—not what anyone else may think or say about the books on your shelves.

First, there are the books with historical value to you. If your grandmother gave you a book (mine gave me one, and I still have it), there is value there… a memory and keepsake that means something to you. Perhaps you have a shelf full of books that informed your thesis or a book you hope to write. Those books matter, and keeping them close to your heart—and hearth—is important.

Then there are books of value on the market: signed copies, first editions and rare books. As these will likely increase in value over time, I suggest holding onto them and taking special care of each.

For the books that make up your reference library—whether a thesaurus, cookbook or DIY series—if you are going to store them, do so with care. I recommend wrapping them in white tissue paper or plain Kraft paper, then stacking into small boxes. Be sure that your storage unit has nothing wet or damp in it. Do not use plastic bags, Ziploc® bags or aluminum foil to wrap your books as a tight seal can encourage mold growth.

Donating books is a beautiful thing. Your local library is a good place to start, or your local charitable thrift shop. The American Library Association has put together an excellent resource on great places to donate books.

And what about your favorite books? Whatever the genre, you love them. They changed your perspective, they taught you something. To me, these are the greatest books to share. A long time ago, when I had more than 1,000 books, I chose my favorite and gave them away. When you think about it, what better use of a book than sharing it?

If there are books that changed your life, put them in motion—give them to nieces or nephews, friends or neighbors or strangers. Let them go and their seeds will come to fruition.

Conna Shannon

Conna Shannon

Conna is a writer, editor and aspiring filmmaker. She's into DIY, upcylcing and macrobiotic cooking. She lives in Monterey, California, with a yellow lab named Daisy.
Conna Shannon

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