Books a Million

 

My uncle, who loved books, passed away in 2008 and left his entire collection of books—30 large boxes worth—to my sister and I. It wasn’t until recently, however, that we had the heart to go through them—there were just too many painful memories of grief, loss, and the hole in our lives that was left by his passing. Without him, there was no longer anyone to recommend little known titles by favorite authors, relate fascinating anecdotes from the lives of the literary greats, and to turn us onto previously unknown authors.

His great love—as is ours—was the classics and we—my sister, the librarian and I, the author—loved to talk with him for hours on all facets of this shared love.

 

The grief of his passing having finally subsided enough that we could face the task of unpacking his library, my sister transferred the books—after she had taken the ones she wanted—to my house. Here is one half of the books—sorted alphabetically by author. There are ten more boxes to go. < p>  
Large stack of books
Just half of the books pictured here.

 

 

This stack represents the books I want to keep—Trollope, Dumas, Twain, Poe, a few Edith Wharton. The problem, then, becomes what to do with the rest—Hemingway, Steinbeck, Melville, Woolf, Zola.

 

Large stack of books
Oh, my aching shelves!

 

 

And, yes, this means I now own three copies of Wuthering Heights and two copies of Jane Eyre (that I know of; remember, I've only unpacked half the books at this point)

 

muliple copies of the clssics
Twice as nice?

 

 

It turns out it’s actually pretty hard to get rid of old books. Mass market paperbacks—and to a certain extent trade paperbacks—are designed to be disposable. They aren’t expected to last and they aren’t generally of interest to collects or bibliophiles the way hard covers are. Libraries don’t want dusty old paperbacks—and these are the classics so it’s a pretty poor library that doesn’t already have a copy or two of each of these already—and any used bookstore would be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of what I have to dispose of. But then I found this book:

 

book: the repurposed library
Buy this book - it's totally awesome!

 

 

I thought I had hit the jackpot—the ideas in this book are amazing and with the amount of books at my disposal I was pretty sure I could start a side business selling book-based crafts on Etsy. There was only one problem…

 

ripping apart old books
Oh no, Mr. Bill!

 

 

No? Well, okay, then how about this:

 

cutting up old books
NOOOOO!!!!

 

 

Confronted with the requirement that I actually destroy books either through cutting or dismantling, I found I just couldn’t do it. This refusal of my hands to commit such a transgression went far beyond the fact that these were my uncles books—it’s a deeply ingrained love and reverence for books. Books are to be cherished, cared for, treated with dignity and respect. If it’s a sacriledge to dog-ear a single page, how much worse is it then to hollow out a book’s guts to create a storage space for playing cards?

 

art made from old book
This, on the other hand, is an entirely awesome use of an old book

 

 

And, so, there they sit—nay, hulk—in my dining room (the other ten boxes’ worth chitter and scratch in my living room, itching for release), taunting me as something both beloved and despised and presenting an irresistible lure for dive bombing cats (did I mention I’ve had to restack these books SIX times in the last two weeks?).

 

What do you think? Any suggestions for how to get rid of used books that doesn’t involve destroying them?