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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11 Responses to Unwanted and abandoned books

  1. I pass on books to friends, family and charity shops.
    The list of items left in Travelodge was fun, would love to know the story behind the bath of new potatoes.

    • Caroline

      I thought the Travelodge list was hilarious, even when I realised that not everything was left in the same room at the same time! I too pass on books, but I have also left them in places for people to find.

      Thanks for your support and RTs.

  2. Margaret Hale

    Have a category on my kindle for abandoned books which contains
    The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. Hopefully I am not the only one who became bored with this.
    How times change, we could not give vinyls to charity shops when we’re were having a sort out only a few years ago.

    • Caroline

      I must admit that i have never started The Goldfinch and that’s because i did not enjoyed her earlier books. But I think she is like Marmite in that she attracts strong views. I didn’t know about the kindle’s abandoned books category (because I am not a kindler). It would be interesting to hear what people obtained and then didn’t read, on their kindles.

      I’m kicking myself for having disposed of a fabulous vinyl collection. I should have stayed with them.

    • Mickey Reid

      I read the Goldfinch to the very end, but was hugely dissatisfied with it. The first half of the 770 pages was wonderful, in my opinion, but the second half dragged on and on, spoiling the whole book for me. About 350 pages had nothing much to say. But it won prizes, so I must be wrong.

  3. Me, I tend to be the one giving the homes to unwanted books… But I’m trying now to get rid of the ones I’m sure I’m never going to read again. Well, that’s the theory, anyway!

    • Caroline

      Thanks for this. I too have toyed with the idea of clearing out what i will never read again, even having told myself I had a policy of one book in, one book out. But actually there is another criteria besides I won’t read this again, something to do with, I read it and enjoyed it and don’t want to part with it even if i don’t read it again. I have shelves and shelves of these.

      But I also like giving boos away and passing them on. If they are not in that long category I happily do that too,.


  4. Lynda Haddock

    I find it very hard to let books go – even ones that I have not, and probably never will, read. Or a book that I read once but know I will not read again; it’s as if memories are embedded in the pages that I will lose if the book goes. I need to be sterner with myself!

    • Caroline

      It is hard to let go, the books are more than the printed page. But we are encouraged to get rid of them. Do you really need to?

      See you soon.

  5. Margaret Guest

    I have learned to be a bit stricter about pruning by book collection from time to time, simply because of space. I do give some books to the local Oxfam bookshop. But my local library welcomes books in good condition. Also a local volunteer group collects books for the elderly who aren’t very mobile so there are plenty of homes for books to go to! But I agree that memories get tied up in books.

    • Caroline

      Good ideas here, to get the books more readers. But as for being stricter – I don’t think we should feel obliged to move books on.
      Thanks for the comment. Come again soon.


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