Submitted Date 03/07/2019

Have you ever bought a book and found out you weren’t quite thrilled with it? Maybe that twist ending was a bit contrived. Or maybe the main characters lacked panache. So now, you’ve got a book on your hands that you need to get rid of. What to do, what to do…

These days, used book stores are few and far between. Even when you can find one, they’re stacked to the ceiling with moldy old tomes and won’t give you a penny for that paperback. The library in my town runs on donations, but not all of them do or even accept used books at all. You could set yourself up as a seller on Amazon (somehow) but maybe you only have one dud at a time to offload. Another option is the thrift store, but I feel like that’s where books go to die. They collect there like flies on a corpse and hardly ever seem to move.

Thankfully, bibliophiles (book lovers) are a creative, clever bunch and there are some great solutions out there for book sharing. If you’re reluctant to let go of that glossy best seller you shelled out $25 for, just remember, these are not only places to offload your stash, but to pick up new volumes for yourself. So, next time, you could be saving that $25 instead! Here are a couple of my favorite ways to share my cast-off copies:

Up in Wisconsin, in 2009, an ingenious fella with a hammer, nails, and an idea built a mini schoolhouse in honor of his mother. Todd Bol put his little building on a pole, filled it with books, and unknowingly started a movement. It’s called Little Free Libraries and there are now 80,000 of them up around the world. You’ve likely seen one around your neighborhood. Anyone can set them up, it just takes some creativity and some minor carpentry skills. But if you’re not that brand of crafty, has some ready made.

What I love about Little Free Libraries is not only the convenience of depositing my used novels and exchanging them for new ones, it’s seeing the creativity of my neighbors. Since these little libraries are non-commercial, small, and easy, there’s a great deal of design potential. I’ve seen one that was a miniature version of the house behind it, one covered in bottle caps, and one built out of a hollow tree. I always feel good when I nestle an old book in between its new friends inside these micro-libraries, imagining another person picking it up and taking it home.

My other favorite way to share books is something called BookCrossing. It’s a way to send your old book on a journey and still keep in touch with it. Essentially, when you’re ready to say goodbye to Ginsberg or au devoir to Agatha Christie, you log into the website at, enter your book info, and get a code. You can then print or order labels with the book’s unique code to stick on your book. Then comes the fun part. I always feel like a secret agent doing this:

Take the book to a public place and release it “into the wild.” You could stash it between seat cushions at the coffee shop, slip it into a stack of newspapers on a street corner, park it on the bus, or leave it in the seat pocket on an airplane. The hard part is the getaway; trying to leave your book behind without good Samaritans attempting to return it. Once you’ve accomplished your mission, you can log back into the site and see if anyone’s picked it up. When someone finds your book, they can enter its code into the site and you can track its progress around town - or even the globe!

So the next time you’re loading up those literary leftovers, try out one of these book-sharing options. You might just help someone discover their new favorite story!

*photo taken by the author


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