Tag Archives: BookCrossing

Unwanted and abandoned books

What do people leave in hotel rooms? Travelodge publishes a list every year. In 2017 it included a winning Euro Millions lottery ticket, a bath full of jersey potatoes, a mother in law (no jokes please) and 84 pairs of builder boots. I’m guessing that the 84 pairs were not all in one room. And of course, people leave books.

In 2014 the books most left behind were Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James, Billionaire series by JS Scott and The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst. I have not read any of these, but I believe they have similar themes. Previously political memoirs topped the list.

Where do the abandoned books go?

Oxfam in Swansea received so many copies of The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown that the manager built a tower and asked for saleable donations, especially vinyl. In 2014 they had built a fort out of Fifty Shades of Grey and again asked for vinyl instead.

Both these books have sold very well, in their millions, which of course means that there are more of them about to leave behind or to give to charity shops. The Da Vinci Code sold 8 million copies.

I still like the idea of BookCrossing. You register the book on the website and if the person who finds it reports its location you can track its journey. Sadly very few books I have set free to travel the world (161 to date) have been tracked in this way – a mere 21.

Garbage collectors in Ankara have recently opened to the public their library of 6000 abandoned books. Brilliant.

Which books are unwanted?

On a recent visit to my local Oxfam bookshop my donations were received enthusiastically and were priced and on the shelves before I had left the shop. The volunteer explained that they would be snapped up quickly as they were ‘quality books’. Well, of course I preened a little, but I was not sure of their criteria for quality books. Or indeed mine for giving them away.

When I moved house I considered my criteria for de-cluttering my shelves (see post on decluttering). And I give away books that I give up reading (see my post from 2014 Abandoning books). Very few of the books review on Bookword get passed on, mostly because I only review books I value enough to tell people about. I am always hoping that the books I pass on will find happier readers.

Goodreads listed the top 5 most abandoned books in January 2018 (from a straw poll – so what follows is not to be considered as reliable research):

Wicked by Gregory Maguire

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Atonement by Ian McEwan

100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

All these books have big reputations, so perhaps the abandoners were not their natural readers.

And the 5 most abandoned classics – same source in 2013

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (?really???)

Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

Ulysses by James Joyce

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Over to you

What books have you abandoned? Or found? What do you do with unwanted books?

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Decluttering my books

I moved house two years ago. Preparations for the move, my first in 29 years, led me to write this post about decluttering my books. Here are some updates: I had lots of shelving installed in my new house; the house has no cellar; I bought a car and acquired a cat; I now belong to two reading groups and buy more books as a result; I bought and reviewed A Passage to India in the older women in fiction series; my criteria for chucking out books has narrowed; I still do not own a Kindle. I am considering releasing books into the wild again.

Here’s the original post (slightly edited)

Moving house with books

217 vanBooks and declutter; I am not sure whether those two words can belong in the same sentence. But I am hearing other people combine them because I am moving. Moving house that is. Moving house means moving everything inside the house that isn’t nailed to the floor: my furniture, my clothes, the lamps, the food in my fridge and my books. As soon as I told them I was moving, kind friends began asking how I am getting on with decluttering and something they call ‘sorting out my books’. I consider my response: I’m not – getting on with it, that is; books aren’t clutter; my books don’t need sorting. In that pause my friends think I am considering the size of this task. Sometimes they add – ‘books are so dusty’ or ‘aren’t books heavy’. Both statements are true but obvious, like saying milk goes off or someone’s hidden my Allen keys.

Precious about books?

Now I am not being precious about books. I write in them, their corners get manked because I carry them in my rucksack, I stick post-it notes and those lovely plastic coloured page markers in them, give them away, and even throw them away sometimes. I just assume I’m going to have books around me, like mugs, spiders and socks with holes in the toes.

My Inner Critic pops up to remind me that I have not solved the problem of where I am going to keep my books in my new house. I anticipate hours of moving books around, organising shelves, changing my mind, sitting and reading a rediscovered volume, or searching for the companion to (say) Gilead by Marilynne Robinson: ie Housekeeping and wondering if I can buy the recently released paperback version of her essays When I was a child I read books yet. Or wondering why I have three German-English-Deutsch dictionaries. I do, I do. Oh bliss!

Into the cellar

Back to disposing of books. In preparation for my move I have been forced to look in my cellar, where I find that there are boxes of books (and it has to be admitted other things, such as a roof rack, paint tins, suitcases of different sizes, cat basket, empty jam jars, a box of tile spacers and other potentially useful stuff). I have neither cat nor car, by the way. The thing about the boxes of books (but not those other things) is that they have been there since I moved in 29 years ago. I try to apply a general principle that if I have not looked at them in 29 years I am unlikely to want to look at them in the next 29, so I can move them out and on. But of course this breaks down as soon as I come across War and Peace in two volumes, or Julian Barnes’ early works, or The Tin Drum. Rather than a decluttering fest I have a delightful and time-consuming reunion with many of my books.

35bkbox

Keeping book buying under control

In the past I have tried throwing out a book every time I buy a new one. I have cut down hugely on book buying in the last few years by the simple expedient of using several libraries. But I do still buy books. For example, this week I had to get EM Forster’s A Passage to India. I went to the shelf where I keep his novels and I was rather horrified to find it was not there. I wanted to check the name of the older woman who hears the sound in the Malabar Caves – it’s Mrs Moore. Not having a copy made me want to read it. And I seem to have given myself another problem: what should I throw out to make way for this new book?

Here are some of my criteria for ejection. I usually need at least six of these to apply before I dispose of a book:

  • I’m unlikely to read it again.
  • It was not especially remarkable in the first place.
  • It’s a duplicate because I forgot I already had a copy.
  • It’s on a topic I am unlikely to read about in the future (eg most of my university history books).
  • It was given to me by someone I hate.
  • No-one wants this book because it’s an out of date text book.

Disposal

And what do I do with them if the decision is OUT? Usually I take them to the local charity shop. Sometimes I give them away. Occasionally I put a book that no one will ever want in the recycling bag.

For a couple of years I passed on books through something called BookCrossing. You register the book on the website and if the person who finds it reports its location you can track its journey. One book I left in Gordon Square ended up in New York. Who knows where it has gone now. But not enough people reported finding them to hold my interest (21 books caught out of 143 released), so I stopped doing it. I still like the idea of people finding books on buses, in cafes, in cinema foyers.

217 Bookcr logoAre you one of those people who can’t throw any books away? Or do you have a system for keeping your collection under control? Go on, say it, you have a Kindle. But a Kindle would not help me in the onerous task of moving house, would it?

Related posts

I agree with this article. I do not intend to move for another 30 years and never intend to ‘declutter’ my books again. Decluttering is the enemy of human kind by Emma Brockes in the Guardian, critical of the moral judgements the decluttering movement hands out.

Here’s another reader’s approach: How to weed your bookshelves by Jessica Pryde on BookRiot blog in November 2015

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Decluttering my books

Books and declutter; I am not sure whether those two words can belong in the same sentence. But I am hearing other people combine them because I am moving. Moving house that is. Moving house means moving everything inside the house that isn’t nailed to the floor: my furniture, my clothes, the lamps, the food in my fridge and my books. As soon as I told them I was moving, kind friends began asking how I am getting on with decluttering and something they call ‘sorting out my books’. I consider my response: I’m not – getting on with it, that is; books aren’t clutter; my books don’t need sorting. In that pause my friends think I am considering the size of this task. Sometimes they add – ‘books are so dusty’ or ‘aren’t books heavy’. Both statements are true but obvious. Milk goes off. Someone’s hidden my Allen keys.

Now I am not being precious about books. I write in them, their corners get manked because I carry them in my rucksack, I stick post-it notes and those lovely plastic coloured page markers in them, give them away, and even throw them away sometimes. I just assume I’m going to have books around me, like mugs, spiders and socks with holes in the toes.

My Inner Critic pops up to remind me that I have not solved the problem of where I am going to keep my books in my new house. I anticipate hours of moving books around, organising shelves, changing my mind, sitting and reading a rediscovered volume, or searching for the companion to (say) Gilead by Marilynne Robinson: ie Housekeeping and wondering if I can buy the recently released paperback version of her essays When I was a child I read books yet. Or wondering why I need three German-English-Deutsch dictionaries. I do, I do. Oh bliss!

35bkbox

Back to disposing of books. In preparation for my move I have been forced to look in my cellar, where I find that there are boxes of books (and it has to be admitted other things, such as a roof rack, paint tins, suitcases of different sizes, cat basket, empty jam jars, a box of tile spacers and other potentially useful stuff. I have neither cat nor car, by the way). The thing about the boxes of books (but not those other things) is that they have been there since I moved in 29 years ago. I try to apply a general principle that if I have not looked at them in 29 years I am unlikely to want to look at them in the next 29, so I can move them out and on. But of course this breaks down as soon as I come across War and Peace in two volumes, or Julian Barnes’ early works, or The Tin Drum. Rather than a decluttering fest I have a delightful and time-consuming reunion with many of my books.

In the past I have tried throwing out a book every time I buy a new one. I have cut down hugely on book buying in the last few years by the simple expedient of using several libraries. But I do still buy books. For example, this week I had to get EM Forster’s A Passage to India. I went to the shelf where I keep his novels and I was rather horrified to find it was not there. I wanted to check the name of the older woman who hears the sound in the Malabar Caves – it’s Mrs Moore. Not having a copy made me want to read it. And I seem to have given myself another problem: what should I throw out to make way for this new book?

Here are some of my criteria for ejection. I usually need at least six of these to apply before I dispose of a book:

  • I’m unlikely to read it again.
  • It was not especially remarkable in the first place.
  • It’s a duplicate because I forgot I already had a copy.
  • It’s on a topic I am unlikely to read about in the future (eg most of my university history books).
  • It was given to me by someone I hate.
  • No-one wants this book because it’s an out of date text book.

And what do I do with them if the decision is OUT? Usually I take them to the local charity shop. Sometimes I give them away. Occasionally I put a book that no one will ever want in the recycling bag.

35bkcssing

For a couple of years I passed on books through something called BookCrossing. You register the book on the website and if the person who finds it reports its location you can track its journey. One book, left in Gordon Square ended up in New York. Who knows where it has gone now. But not enough people reported finding them to hold my interest, so I stopped doing it. I liked the idea of people finding books on buses, in cafes, in cinema foyers.

Are you one of those people who can’t throw any books away? Or do you have a system for keeping your collection under control? Go on, say it, you have a Kindle.  But a Kindle would not help me in the onerous task of moving house, would it?

 

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10 Comments

Filed under Books