When I left the UK, more than a decade ago, I took my favourite books with me and put hundreds more into storage. Now I’m back and faced with the task of going through box after box of books and deciding which ones to keep.
I want to make sure that the books go somewhere where people who really want to read them will find them.
I’m using three migration routes for my I’m-sorry-but-I-don’t-have-room-for-you books:
The most popular books, mostly thrillers and science fiction, are sold to Skoobs second-hand bookstall in Bath’s Guildhall Market. I’ve been buying and selling books here since the Eighties. The pile of books never seems to get any smaller yet the business continues to trade. Books are bought at a fifth of the price printed on the back of the book and sold on at a small profit. This way, I know the books will probably be bought and read and I get to go to one a beautiful, domed eighteenth-century building built on a site that has been a market for eight hundred years.
Popular books that Skoobs doesn’t trade in – hardback books, non-fiction or mainstream fiction are donated to the Julian House Charity Shop and Bookshop on Walcot Street. Julian House are the main charity helping Bath’s homeless population. Their vision is “A just society where socially excluded people are supported and empowered to build sustainable, independent lives.” and they’ve done a lot to put that vision into action.
The rest of the books – and they are legion – are donated to the BookBarn International store, out in the wilds of Somerset (well, it’s thirty minutes away by car but it seems further). This is a recent find for my wife and me. The bookstore is a supplement to the online business. Every book is sold for £1 and there are thousands of them. The place has a friendly, we’re-all-book-lovers-here atmosphere. There’s a place for kids to play, the Full Stop Café to meet and eat at and aisle after aisle of books to browse.
It turns out that setting books free can be almost as much fun as buying new ones.