The Guilt of Donating Unread Books

So far I’m only one book away from being able to buy my second new book of the year and my challenge has got me really thinking about the unread books I own. Does it still excite me to pick them up? Does it intimidate me? How much do I really want to read them?

Last night I decided that I’ll be donating The Coma by Alex Garland despite never having read it because I’ve had it for eight years now, carried it from house to house to house (it has lived in five different houses) and it just became one of the books I felt guilty about letting go, but not one I was excited to read. I felt like I should keep it because I was interested in it once and because it might have interesting things to say… But I don’t think those are good enough reasons to keep things any more. Especially not when there are sooo many more books I’m wanting to add to my TBR every day.

I don’t often give away books I haven’t read yet (especially ones I bought!) because it feels wasteful, but is it really worth the guilt and effort to keep and read them if I’ve identified that I’m just not interested any more? I don’t think so.

All of that to say, my challenge has given me renewed confidence to be more honest about where I want to spend my time. There are many books on my shelf that deserve my time, but there are definitely a few that just snuck in there when I wasn’t paying close enough attention and I fully intend to route them out! It feels really relieving to let The Coma go and there are a few more books I’m considering getting rid of too… For now, I’m just going to keep picking up my unreads until I come across another one that I’m not too bothered about. If it doesn’t make the cut, so be it.

Have you ever looked through your books and realised there are books in there you’re just not fussed about any more? How do you deal with them? Do you just keep them in hopes you’ll eventually get excited about them again in future or chuck ’em?

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10 Responses to The Guilt of Donating Unread Books

  1. ladyelasa says:

    Yes I’ve definitely had this happen. XD Most of the books this happens with are usually ones that were given to me.

  2. Adan Ramie says:

    I’ve been grappling with this for years myself. When you add in another person, like a spouse, who also has trouble letting go of books that have remained unread for years, it gets even stickier. That being said, one of my goals this year is to read and donate (or decide not to read, then donate) every book in my house. (That is, except those that I know we want to keep, like favorites and signed copies.) I’m glad I’m not the only one!

  3. Mahima says:

    I feel the same sort of reluctance with Zadie Smith’s Swing Time. Difference is, I’d borrowed that but didn’t know if I wanted to give it back yet because I gave up reading it. It’s been praised a lot, and Zadie Smith’s On Beauty is one of my favourite books. I don’t know if I want to pick it up again, give it another chance before I let it go.

    • Nicole says:

      I borrowed Swing Time from my library but by the time I got 40% in, I just had to face the fact that I didn’t care enough so I let it go. I’ve heard a lot of people say they loved On Beauty though! And the people I follow are split on Swing Time so that probably wasn’t the best Zadie Smith introduction for me.. I’ll try On Beauty some time though.

  4. Rachelle J. says:

    I used to keep books forever, no matter what, but in the past couple of years, I have gone through my TBR several times and gotten rid of the ones I know I’m probably never going to read. Once I have a box of books, I take them to the used bookstore so that I at least get a little bit of the money I spent on those books back in my pocket to buy books I know I’ll read.

  5. Tammy says:

    I have a hard time parting with ANY book, which is probably why I have so many, lol. I admire your ability to be rational about it, it certainly makes sense to me, even if I can’t bring myself to do it:-)

  6. Joséphine says:

    Oh, I feel exactly the same way as you. I’ve kept every book I ever bought despite multiple moves. Most of them I still do intend to read but there are some I’m not so sure about anymore. Yet I’ve only removed one book from my shelves because it’s a sequel to a book I absolutely hated.

    I’ve also been trying to grapple with the notions of wastefulness — spending money and then not reading vs. letting a book I might never read take up space on my bookshelf. I think wanted to hold on stems from the sentimental attachment because at some point we had every intention to read the books we acquired, no?

    • Nicole says:

      Yeah; the wastefulness thing plays a big part in my general decisions in life. I agree, there’s definitely that “what if” and sentimentality and attachment, but I had to be realistic about it. It was just making me feel guilty and ended up wasting my time trying to force myself through books I didn’t care about any more. Donating them means someone else might be able to gain from it where I couldn’t. And if it equates to me essentially buying a book for someone else, I’m OK with that. The money is already spent and I don’t want to waste my time guilt-reading any more haha
      I get that that kind of thinking isn’t for everyone, though. Interestingly, my new “read 5 books I currently own before I buy 1 new one” has made me think even harder than I already do (which is a lot) about new purchases and I definitely have fewer regretted purchases and fewer untouched new purchases.

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