It’s Saturday! Musings on Giving Books Away.

I take a book out of the library. I really enjoy reading it and then what do I do? I return the book.

I don’t think about it twice.

You read, enjoy (or not) and move on.

Why isn’t it the same for books we have purchased? Why do we feel the need to keep them? Why not give them away when we’re done to the nearest book lover?

It makes sense to keep resource books – one needs to refer to them and reread them.

It makes sense to keep children’s books. Children like to hear the same stories over and over again. Hopefully I’ll have grandchildren one day to read the books my boys liked when they were small (though I keep giving them to my little nieces and nephews so they might not survive till then!).

It makes sense to keep a book that was a gift from a very special person. Or a book that touched you so deeply you know you must read it again.

But other books?

I’m very indecisive on the topic. I’m always trying to talk to people about books and then lending books to them. Sometimes I don’t get the books back. Sometimes I just give them away.

Part of me is proud that I’m not flooding the house with books. I grew up in a house like that! Too many books! But then another part of me remembers the book and wonders why it isn’t on my shelves.

I’m pleased when people return books but often (even within a week!) I’ve lent them out again!

Mind you, we have three large bookcases of books in the living room (and each boy has one in his room!). But that’s it!

What do you do?

18 thoughts on “It’s Saturday! Musings on Giving Books Away.”

  1. I’m afraid I don’t follow. What is the difference if I buy a book for that young teacher who loves to read or buy books for myself, read them and then give them to her? I’m paying full price for the book in both cases. I’m just not hanging on to it forever.

  2. Hi Naomi!

    Another super post – love it!

    Well, I must say I am in looooove with my books – my library at home is my pride and joy : ) I agree that giving is good, but find it difficult giving away my own lol ; ) I love buying other people books – but I feel bad when I lend books and they never come back : (

    I have been thinking a lot about it though since I read this post!

    Who knows? ; )

  3. If I kept every book I bought, I wouldn’t be able to get into the house. Our bookshelves are groaning under the weight of cherished books, reference books and books still to be read as it is. Once a book has been read in our house it gets donated to our nearest charity shop – thatw ay someone else gets to read the book and a charity benefits too.

  4. So nice to read both your comments together, my fellow book lovers!
    We established a helpful rule – these are the bookcases. A finite space. If there’s no room for the new book, either it goes or something else goes. No books lying on top of others and no double (or triple) rows!

  5. Hello, Naomi,

    I’m afraid I’m one of the old-fashioned bookworms..I’m simply crazy about having my OWN books. It’s almost psychological, which it really must be, because as long as I remember myself I”ve been buying books, reading them, storing them on bookshelves, getting back to them again, skimming through, remembering emotions..At university I tried to avoid libraries as much as I could (it must sound weird but it’s the horrible truth about me, I don’t like libraries as a place!=), I was always buying own books. I don’t remember regretting one, seriously.
    I make notes in the English books I”m reading. I”m happy to lend a book that I have enjoyed, but I fully enjoy the ownership!=)) Is that bad?.. I don’t know, I personally don’t feel that way.
    I’ve been cherishing a dream to collect my own home library of English books (fiction and ELT related), just like my grandmother did (a perfect and outstanding collection). A book tells a story to me, and I wish to keep the story-teller close because there are chances I”d love to hear the story once again=)))
    P.S. my grandma has been reading and re-reading books from our library throughout all her life!)

    With best regards,

  6. Sorry, Naomi. I was just being (perhaps inappropriately) facetious in view of all the controversy raging this week around new anti-piracy laws in the US. It’s just I think sharing files with friends on the Internet these days is the same as sharing books with friends in the past – and should be perfectly legal. But I digress here. Yes I am, like you, all for giving away books and have done it a few times in the past while moving from one country to another. I do get annoyed, unlike you, however when my books get borrowed and never returned.

  7. Oooops, Naomi : ) I’m afraid there are lots of books one on top of the other and a small plan underway to buy a new bookcase to accommodate the “loose” ones : )

    Ann, now….your grandmother is a person I would defintely love to meet! Wow!


  8. Ann!
    Thank you so much for sharing! Interesting that you don’t like libraries! I wonder what kind of library you encountered as a child. I grew up with a wonderful library!
    Which brings me to your comment, dear Vicky! It may have to do with age and having a family. Or it may have to do with how I grew up – at some point in my childhood we had bookcases made out of boxes of books!
    we moved here with 140 boxes. 100 of them were books!
    I quite understand!
    Isn’t it great to take time to discuss books!

  9. Naomi,
    I confirm, it feels amazing to find a company of book lovers and discuss differing experiences!
    It’s very interesting that you thought about a childhood memory – there must have been something, I would refer it to my primary school, but I can’t tell really..Libraries do not inspire me as they might inspire some people..whereas personal home libraries do!
    Vicky, thanks, she is a great lady, she’s almost 82 now and she spends more than 3 hours a day reading! she has definitely set an example to follow!

  10. Hi Naomi
    I found It’s a trading system. I post an inventory of books I want to send to people, and a wishlist of books I’m looking for.
    Then, I get e-mail notifications. If someone wants a book, they send a request with their mailing address. I respond whether or not I’m willing to mail the book. If overseas postage is a problem, I can state whether or not I’m willing to do overseas, etc.

    When something on my wishlist becomes available, I get notified and then it’s up to me to find out if the person is willing to send it to me here in Israel.

    Trading books makes sense. The kind of books I’m searching for come up rarely, but when they do, wow!

    I read and then I place them on my inventory list for the next person.


  11. Hi Naomi and fellow Book Lovers

    What an interesting post, and the comments are also a great reflection of how books play such an important role in most peoples lives. It’s fascinating to read how your readers deal with the tricky area of “To keep, or not to keep” a book.

    I have to confess I am a bit of a bookworm and a hoarder of books. I like keeping them, as they are a reflection of the past. We had a lot of boxes filled with books when we moved to Abruzzo, but certainly not as many as 100 boxes!! That is truly amazing!!! I decided to give some paperbacks away to the school library where I worked so that students could enjoy them. I also gave some away to the local Cancer Research UK shop, where I used to work as a volunteer. Again, that felt good and I don’t regret that action. The books had been bought second hand anyway, and were enjoyed at the time but I didn’t feel a bind to keep them.

    There are some books, however, that I would never ever give or throw away and these are ones which have influenced me as a person, or books given to me as gifts.

    A dedication in a book presented to me in June 1978 by a friend in Dijon, France when I left Dijon university after studying French there for a year reads as follows. I’ve actually translated it from French:

    “Here’s a little souvenir from your dear friend “J”. I know it’s not a lot, but it’s all I can offer you right now. In any case the act of giving you this book is so that you might remember this “J” one day. Try not to throw it into the rubbish bin, because if you do so, it will be as if you are throwing me into it”.

    Those words have always resonated with me, and that’s why owning books is such a personal affair, really. A piece of life. A fragment of the past. When I see this book, written in French (A selection of stories from The Readers’ Digest), I always think back to “J” and the special friendship we enjoyed for a brief time, 38 years ago. We lost contact many years ago, but I will never forget him, because he lives through this book on my bookcase.

  12. Hello all!
    So nice to come hom from school and read comments from fellow book lovers! I’ve go a big smile on my face!
    Thank you Anna and janet for sharing your feelings with us! Judih! Thanks for the important info about the book sharing site!
    Here’s to great reads!

  13. Hi Naomi,

    reading the comments above, I think I’m on the same or similar team to Vicky, Anna and Janet. I hoard most of my books and have books in every room. But thinking about my attitude to books, well, like you Naomi, I keep virtually all children’s books, both for work, for my own sons and for possible future grandchildren – I was read to as a child from the same battered copy of Milly Molly Mandy as my mother, and I remember another storybook illustrated with ancient, sepia photos which may have been my grandmother’s as a child.
    I also keep any biographies or novels which I think I might read, refer to or dip into again or maybe even want to lend – and that accounts for, say, 70% of all my books. Then there’s the 15% of my books I haven’t read yet! Either because of buying several when in UK ‘to be read when I have time’ or because I belong to one of those book clubs that oblige you to buy something every month or two. I lend books, but as I tend to lend books I enjoy, I hate not getting them back, and if I don’t, I end up buying another copy.
    The books I give away tend to be books I’ve read but couldn’t ‘connect’ with – what I do is go out for a walk and leave the book (in Spanish as I’m in Spain) on a wall or bench somewhere, knowing some new owner will come along. If I’m giving away books in English, I wait until I have a batch, then take them along to the local English academy for students or teachers.
    I think books are like people, you meet a lot in life, many leave their mark, a few are really important to you, shape you, a few are ‘toxic’ and can be binned, effectively, others are ships that pass in the night, they move on semi-forgotten, yet more become family friends. I try to hang on to most of the interesting people in my life too, even if I don’t see them often.

    My parents, by the way, used to live in a house so full of books they (the books, not my parents) sat in piles on the carpeted floor (leaving their imprint forever, I suspect), stacks on the kitchen units, on the window sills, bookcases everywhere… In his new flat, my father continues to have a voracious appetite for books, but keeps none. His new system is: go to a charity shop, buy six or seven books, read them, swap them with his brother (also an constant reader), read the brother’s books, take the brother’s books to the charity shop, buy six or seven books… etc. And for a change of scenery, he comes here and reads six or seven of mine 😉
    Fiona (@fionamau)

  14. Fiona!
    Thank you so much for taking the time to share with us! I was so moved by the story!
    Books have such an impact on us, don’t they?

  15. Hi Naomi,
    Here’s my second attempt at leaving a comment – unfortunately it lost my first one 🙁
    When I first saw the title of your blog I thought you were talking about Bookcrossing, but since you weren’t, I will 😉
    I joined Bookcrossing in December 2003, and since then over 700 books have passed through my hands, some of which I have read, some of which I owned, and some of which I was given to release through the site. As I am still leading a peripatetic lifestyle, this is a very convenient way to get and pass on books to try and avoid building up too many, which I can’t take with me anyway. That’s not to say that I give away all of my books. I have at least 100 which normally live in my mum’s attic, but are currently with me in Newcastle, mostly reference books, with a few treasured gifts among them. I would rather give away books which I know I’m not going to read again, or buy a new copy (usually from a charity shop) if I desperately want to reread something (quite unusual for me).
    In a nutshell, to take part in Bookcrossing you take a book, register it on the site and write the individual number inside the front cover of the book, then pass it on to others, either directly (by hand/post) or indirectly (by leaving it somewhere you think it might be picked up). For my ‘wild releases’ I have a less than 5% hit rate on people writing on the site about them once they’ve left me, but every time I DO get a message, it makes me really happy. I’ve had one book journalled five years after it left me, and another which has been picked up four times after being wild released each time (very unusual!). Through the site I have found books/authors I never would have heard about otherwise, and I have also made friends, many of whom I have met at unconventions or smaller local meetings. Quite a few Bookcrossers are also members of bookmooch, though I’ve never tried this – I have too many books waiting to be read as it is!
    My mum is a librarian, and both she and my aunt are avid members of Bookcrossing. Both of their houses, and that of my grandparents, are full of books, and I’m sure one day mine will be too, many of which will probably be those passed on to me by my mum, including books from her and my (and my brother’s) childhood.
    Thanks for sharing this Naomi, and giving me chance to wax lyrical about Bookcrossing 🙂

  16. Sandy!
    Thank you so much for taking the time to repost your comment -it would have been such a shame for all of us to have missed this information! I will spread the word!

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