Someone has given us a book which aspires to teach you to think like a book collector. Without going into why any sane person would want to (hint: they wouldn’t) it is an interesting and, so far, reasonably reliable guide to how to go about piling up books. (I’ll tell you the title if I go through and decide it’s worthy: it has already scored a few points on what it says about donating your excess to a library book sale.)
One section which impressed me is the section of How To Throw Books Away. It opens by saying that the authors understand that this is not a talent easily acquired. There is a built-in resistance to the idea, but they suggest you give it some thought, especially when dealing with “musty Reader’s Digest Condensed Books” or just about any National Geographic. But I think it could have been a bit more detailed. Let’s go over a few points to consider when throwing books away.
Can you read it? If pages are missing, or chewed up, or stuck together with damp and/or mold, the book is of no further use. (As a book. It might make a good holiday gift for that person who gives you marzipan-filled fruitcake.)
WOULD you read it? If you can turn the pages, but don’t want to because the smell makes your eyes water, or the book keeps flopping to the side because the paper is thin and the covers are missing, it should probably be used only as a gift for the recycler.
Would anybody pick it up at a Book Fair? It may still be holding together, and entirely unmoldy, and still readable. But maybe the backstrip-—what most of us call the spine—has fallen off, so there is no lettering to tell anyone what the book is. I do know people who insist on going through every book on a table, just in case, but they are exceptions to the norm. Most people will think “damaged” and pass it by. (Note: this does NOT mean you throw away that old Bible that Martin Luther scribbled notes in. This applies only to that lonely volume 7 of the Works of Victor Hugo.)
Is the text outdated? Ha! Caught you! Try to remember, sriracha fudge, that everything has a history. A 2016 phonebook may be outdated, but a 1916 phonebook is local history. A book of medical advice from 1954 might be considered obsolete, but the same thing from 1754 is historical. Just as the date of a book won’t tell you whether it’s worth a million dollars, so too it is no great guide to when the book has become a paperweight.
Are your name and address printed on the cover? Your name is not a problem: someone who wants to read the book won’t care, and unless your name is Starburst Bananarama, no one who knows you is going to be sure that was your book. But it is up to you to decide whether you want your address going out there WITH your name. This happens a lot with magazines. Yes, you can cut your name OFF the magazine, but that’s only worth the trouble if you’re putting it on a rack in your building’s laundry room. At a good Book Fair, this means the price has to be reduced, and it’s not much use to reduce the price on a one dollar item.
Did the person who gave you the book write a mushy poem inside to mark the occasion? Again, this is a matter of opinion. We at the Book Fair love to read these impromptu odes, and if no one really knows that you are Bun-Buns, little harm is done.
I hope this helps, though I suppose it won’t. Not that I mean you, raspberry ragout, but the world is full of people who bring me that economics textbook that cost them Thirty Dollars in college, and throw away that junky old novel by Victoria Lucas. (Sylvia Plath wrote The Bell Jar under the name Victoria Lucas…just in case you were going to throw that away. I’ll take it, even if your dog did chew it a little. In fact, maybe it’s best if you send all your books here, and let us make the delicate distinction between what will sell and what will become somebody’s insulation.)