What to do with your used books

Mar 22, 2010 at 11:35 p.m. ET

If your bookshelf has more than a year's worth of dust accumulated on the top, it may be time to consider giving up part of your collection. Saying goodbye to some of the classics may be too difficult but if you've got a series of books that you're looking to recycle, consider one of the following suggestions to give your used books a second lease on life.

Old books

1. Spread the love

We all know that selling your old books for cold cash is a great way to make some extra change, but why not add a little spring in the next owner's step with an inspirational note? Instead of letting your old paperbacks collect dust on your bookshelf, pen a little letter of encouragement on the inside cover and sell it to your local used bookshop. And, encourage the next owner to do the same. That way, future owners not only have a great novel to read, but also some history of where the book has been.

2. Recycling children's books

No matter how badly you wish for it, your little ones won't be little forever. Before you toss that copy of Where the Wild Things Are, ring up your kid's teacher or librarian. With today's budget cuts, we're willing to bet your kid's school can use the extra donations. This will help to ensure that future generations have the privilege of reading childhood classics like The Cat in the Hat.

3. Throw a party

The less-than-stellar economic state has forced label-loving fashionistas to get creative with "recessionista" clothing-swap parties. Why not put those same principles to use and invite a group of your friends over for a book swap? Bring five to 10 of your recent reads and your favorite snack to share. Add a round (or two) of cocktails and enjoy!

4. Donate to the IRC

The International Rescue Committee is a global network of first responders, humanitarian relief workers, healthcare providers and activists working to provide safety and sanctuary to refugees. They're on the ground in 42 countries and 24 cities in the US, so it'll be easy to find your local chapter. Books that will help refugees learn or improve on English and math skills are ideal. Plus, anything that doesn't get used is donated to Goodwill in exchange for money vouchers the families can use at Goodwill.

5. Start an in-office library

Designate an extra shelf in your company's office for employees to bring in their used books. Stock the space with your old novels for your coworkers to enjoy at their leisure. The only rule: take a book, leave a book!

6. Give to a charity book sale

Nonprofit volunteer groups across the country hold annual book sales to raise money for their various organizations. The Volunteer Nonprofit Service Association in Phoenix holds an annual event to raise funds for three different organizations: Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation, Literacy Volunteers of Maricopa County, and Toby House, Inc. This year they raised more than $400,000 in two days - amazing!

7. Make a Vet happy

They make the ultimate sacrifice to serve and protect our country. The least we can do is offer them a bit of entertainment and education, right? Find your local VA Hospital and see what kind of books they might need. Donating is easy and will no doubt be appreciated.


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