An illustration of different hands stretching out towards a book against a blue background

Creative ways to clear out your book collection

Running out of shelf space? Your unwanted books can provide inspiration and insight for other people. Here’s how to carve out space and share your stories.

We’ve all been there: trying to cram another book onto a shelf that simply doesn’t have the space. Unless you’re a double-stacker, or keep a secret stash under the bed, sometimes you’ve got to face the facts: you have too many books, and some need to find new homes. 

The prospect can seem like a chore, but there are ways to ensure the books you move on offer something special to others. To mark the start of a fresh year, here are a few creative ways to have a clear-out.

Sharing is caring

Got social media accounts? Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are a great way to let your friends know you’re getting rid of books. Beyond discovering more about your favourite people’s taste in books, social media also allows community groups and libraries to find out about your unwanted reads, too. 

Random gifting

Ever been tempted by a literary lucky dip? You can bestow this thrill on your friends and family by choosing a book you think might challenge or delight them, wrapping it up, and sending it to them out of the blue. You get more space on your shelves, and the fun of delivering a random act of kindness!

Leave a surprise for a stranger

Travelling around can be boring, the commute can be repetitive, public transport can be tedious. Imagine, then, how much more engaging the trip to work could be if you encountered a free book! If you use public transport, you could try leaving single copies of books around with notes to explain why they’re there and a bit of information about what to expect, ready and waiting to make someone’s day! Or to be more officious about thing, seek out stations that have lending libraries (there are more than you think).

Donate to – or create – a neighbourhood library

Have you seen a neighbourhood library before? There’s no librarians, and no tickets, and certainly no fines. They can occupy everything from an out-of-use telephone box to a cupboard, and can be found on street corners, front walls and even car-parks. They work on trust - and community spirit - as people put books they no longer need on the shelves and others come and borrow ones they like the look of. Ideally, the borrowed books end up on the shelves, but perhaps they become a real favourite or are passed among friends. In any case, it’s a great way to feel part of a community with your books. And if you don’t have one near you, why not think about making one?

Sell them

OK, selling things you no longer want or need might not sound like the most creative idea going, but there are novel ways to generate money from your old door stoppers. Why not try an app such as Ziffit or a website such WeBuyBooks, which works with your books’ ISBNs to generate small change that soon adds up? You could also invite donations from those who are keen to re-home your books and donate the proceeds to a charity of your choice. You could also trade your books in at a second-hand bookseller and receive credit in exchange, such as at the brilliant Barter Books in Northumberland.

Find a book charity that speaks to you

There are so many brilliant organisations that will distribute books to those in need of them, from children to the elderly, from refugees to the homeless. Many charities will have specific bookshops, which you can make a donation to, but others, such as the London Children’s Book Project, works through the post. Search online to see which charities accept books.

Rebecca Hendin for Penguin Random House


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