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bookshelves with bird shelf

My two bookshelves.

When friends see the bookshelves in my office they usually question whether I’m really a writer. Although I would love a BEAUTY & THE BEAST castle library with a rolling ladder, I have a tendency to keep a fairly spartan book collection. This probably stems from the fact that I moved 9 times within 7 years, and books are heavy.

If you’re overwhelmed by the number of books you have, or you received some books over the holidays that you’re not sure about keeping, my book donation philosophy might help you.

Some ways I keep my book shelves at capacity:

  • Book swap. Pre-COVID I would sometimes host a book swap table at writing workshops or house parties. Guests were invited to bring books they wanted to get rid of and everyone could search the pile for titles to add to their own collection. Usually you find fewer books than you donated.
  • Reach out to friends. If I decide a book is ready to leave my shelves I’ll ask a friend who might be interested. They get first dibs before I…
  • Donate to a used book store or thrift shop. If I have contemporary or very old books to donate, I stop by our local used book store, Circle City Books, to see if they want any. They give a store credit, which I’ve always used up on the spot. All other books I leave at our local thrift shop or ReStore.

Being a writer, I know writers. From organizing writing workshops, I meet even more writers. I often swap my book with another writer’s book, or buy their book, or they give one to me. I’m sure you can empathize that my to-be-read (TBR) pile is tall (and my Amazon cart’s “save for later” has a long list too). There simply aren’t enough hours in our lives to read all the things.

How do I decide which books to donate? Here are my simple questions. If I say NO to either of these questions, the book gets set off into the world.

  1. Do I read this genre, or am I interested in this topic?
  2. If I read this book, will I read or reference it again?

It’s not complicated. Yes, I used to feel slightly guilty for donating a signed book or a copy from someone I know. Realistically, I think it’s better to set the book out into the world for it to be discovered by someone who answers YES to these questions. When I go to my bookshelves I know that I will find a book I’m interested in that I haven’t read yet, or I will find one I’ve already read that I will want to dive into again. It’s like I have a book store at home personalized just for me–a small consolation for not having a rolling ladder bookshelf!