So many books!

lucyOctober 15, 2007

Help... I recently moved into a small (old) house in the country. I have space for most furniture and other things (those Sauder cabinets are great), but also have 40 quadrillion books (last count) and while I guess I could line the walls with shelving (don't want the lower 1-2 shelves of cases because I'll be vacuuming dust bunnies every day... 3 cats, no waiting), who wants a few shelves in each room (the kitchen?) with bks you long ago read and are keeping sentimentally? I think I might need some encouragement to just trade in a lot, though whether or not the outlets will want so many out of date ones is debatable, plus many are not fiction and have limited interest (at least where I'm living). Actually my problem really is that I can't see getting rid of them... what have others done?

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We have donated to libraries, veterans organization to be taken to VA hospital, Sr. Center, etc. The link below has a lot of info.

Here is a link that might be useful: Where you can donate books

    Bookmark   October 15, 2007 at 11:35AM
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When moving I had to take the plunge and donate books to the library. They could use them through loan or their book sale. Admission that I can't remember most of the ones given. Not an easy choice and still have many books dear to my heart in boxes. I just haven't been able to figure out how to bookcase them and not have rooms in chaos.

If you would like some inspiration, rent the movie "The Holiday". I am still intrigued with the little cottage in this film (lots of settings shown). There are books stuffed everywhere along with little sitting places, lamps, collectables, photos/art on walls. Even the kitchen is stuffed to the brim. And I love every room. Would love to pull this off. Haven't gone there yet, but maybe I'll get old enough to take a chance and quit trying for the perfect decorator's environment. What we love is the most important.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2007 at 12:06PM
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Want to...I had forgotten about hospitals, our service, etc. A friend of mine also sent books to areas of disasters where many libraries had been lost. Books can also be shipped cheaper than the normals rates if noted on PO slips. Thanks for the link.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2007 at 12:09PM
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Thanks, I know that's an option, but my problem is I do want to keep them, just not sure of the most efficient way to do it! I looked long and hard at those Sapien bookstands (tall steel pole with smallish steel plates up and down for lying books horizontally up to the ceiling (or less), but they look odd and cost a lot of money. I think I want a magic answer, and know there isn't one. Oh well... (PS, I am in Canada).

    Bookmark   October 15, 2007 at 12:10PM
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You mean with 40 quadrillion books, you don't have one on how to store books? Seriously, we have the same problem. I have gotten rid of a lot of books, but we still have a lot of reference books, which we really can't justify getting rid of. We have one whole wall of our den covered in bookshelves top to bottom, and several other shelving units in other places. Since books can be dusty and messy, we try to at least keep them in one (private) part of the house, so guests don't have to see the dust bunny collection!

    Bookmark   October 15, 2007 at 4:00PM
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Thank you all. I think it helps to know I'm not alone, and also to reinforce that I can put them wherever - it's not like I care anymore whether someone thinks my place looks like it was 'designed' after all! I think I have to divest of other junk, and maybe that'll help free up some space.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2007 at 4:27PM
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A friend of mine some years ago lined the hallways, floor to ceiling, in his flat with bookshelves; since most of his books were paperbacks (he collected the old "pulp" novels), he made them almost exactly the depth of the paperbacks which is only about 4". It's a very narrow hallway that can't spare 4". Deeper bookcases for larger books could go in less-traveled areas. If you set up your shelves right you could use stock cabinet doors like Ikea's or the Mills Pride ones at Home Depot to keep the cat hair out of the lower shelves. It actually looked great and the mass of paper had some sound insulation value.

We're blessed in that we have a small extra bedroom that we can fill with bookshelves and use as a library/office. Eventually I'd like to do built-in Ikea cabinetry but for a while it's going to be the old white melamine $19.99 Walmart bookshelves lined up along each wall. I actually don't keep many books (I'd say less than 100 between us) out of sentimentality, we reread all of ours! I also make a point of rarely buying hardbacks, paperbacks are not only lighter and easier for wonky hands to hold but they are smaller and easier to store. One bookshelf will also go down into the kitchen for all the cookbooks and basic reference books (dictionary, etc.). We got rid of other stuff so we could keep our books, too.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2007 at 7:41PM
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I like to sell mine to second hand book stores and what's left over donate.

I think it is fun to go through my books and purge. I had 30 plus years of Gourmet magazine, but I had to clear to make room on my shelves. I barely look at them and they take up so much space.

It's hard, I know, but it makes you feel so saintly in the long run.


    Bookmark   October 17, 2007 at 9:46AM
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lucy, I just wanted you to see that the top designers deal with the same issues in their own homes. :)

These are a small portion of the books in designer Bunny Williams' NYC apartment:

There are more examples in the designers' homes featured in the link below.

I have built-ins in every place that I can fit one. We love books, and they definitely can take over. Many of us suffer from that same affliction. :)

Here is a link that might be useful: NYSD designers' homes link

    Bookmark   October 17, 2007 at 5:49PM
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Oh I'm afflicted alright! But - I feel like putting an ad up somewhere to celebrate! Today I disgorged the last box of bks, made a couple of shelves with boards on sliced up Sono tubes legs (temp!) and, between them and the glass block-supported shelving on top of an old dresser, plus 1-2 actual bkcases, I think I've got them 'placed' til further notice! I just get fed up with myself for dithering instead of doing - I'm also trying to arrange everything else here (3 mos. of occupancy), but about once a week do get going and today was one of those days. Thank you for the link - hard to realize people still live like that!

    Bookmark   October 17, 2007 at 10:41PM
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I always think it's funny when I'm watching design shows and they say, "Oh, this person has a lot of books!"

Their idea of "a lot" means two half-height bookcases. That's like, bathroom reading for us bookfiends, right? Right!!

Anyway, we divided our books up into four main categories. Living Room books include: my reference/research books, coffee-table books on art/architecture/design, my current "to be read" stack. My husband loathes these particleboard units, but they're sturdy and cheap. I like the mix of drawers (which hold all kinds of stuff) with the bookshelves.

I pared my cookbooks down to the minimum - painful, but necessary. They're in the dining room, which is open to the kitchen so they're just a few teps away.

Downstairs are my husband's wargaming and military reference books, all our sci-fi/fantasy paperbacks, and my own fiction reading. Some paperbacks we want to keep but not reread immediately are boxed and stored in our garage, dust/moisture proof. We occasionally take them out and cycle our reading collection since like most bookfiends, we like to re-read stuff after a while.

Our master bedroom is pretty much all books where there's space between the clothes closets and the new 42" LCD TV. Two bookcase units (5' tall, 3' wide) flank the bed headboard wall. Two 7' tall bookcases, each 3' width, are bolted to the wall parallel to the bed so they don't fall on my DH and kill him in the next earthquake (of course, he'll be buried in paperbacks but those should only be bruises, LOL).

Four additional bookcases, all 7' tall, about 11' total width, flank DH's desk setup on the non-sleeping end of the master bdrm, which is his "home office" space.

The only reason it's possible to fit so many bookcases into the master bdrm is because when we remodeled this 1500 sq. ft. cottage, we put in 26' of closet space in the master. That way, we didn't need to struggle with armoires or dressers that TAKE UP PRECIOUS BOOKSHELF SPACE, hee hee!

    Bookmark   October 19, 2007 at 2:52PM
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Oh you're so crafty :-)!

    Bookmark   October 20, 2007 at 6:01AM
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Now I want to unpack more books. Great to know there are so many of us around.

Jkom, your arrangement works out so well. Applause to you and knowing we can live with what we love. The key to living in our small spaces.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2007 at 8:56AM
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I have taken my larger books and stacked them, then placed a lamp or something decorative on the top. Beats spending money on a table or cabinet. I've seen books stacked in little shelving spaces around front doors, around the top of a room on a shelf (you can put at least 1/2 of a quadrillion books all the way around just one room). I saw a movie the other day where they had a buffet height table with stacks of books beneath it. And amazingly, it didn't look cluttered.

If you do decide to let go some of your books, consider posting them on It's always a great feeling to know that you're passing along the love to read to other people who might not otherwise be able to share the hobby.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2007 at 3:14PM
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Well the latest episode goes like this... thought I was all set up, had things sorted out, put somewhere for the duration (however long that may be), and was just about to relax, when... I decided to move around a few heavy dressers, etc., and so took everything out and off them, finding ridiculous inches all over to put things til after the move (did I mention I'm doing it all alone :-)?). Well, got it done, moved all the $*(#&) stuff back, finished my latest book and went to put it on my 'read' pile (vs unread). What pile? The one ... where? WHAT THE HECK did I do with a whole bunch of books (3 stacks at least)? How do you lose a whole pile of books in a place this size? It's disappeared! It's not mistakenly organized on any 'away' places of the previously mentioned books-I'm-keeping. It's not mixed into the unread pile. It's not in a cupboard, or box-to-be-exchanged in the car. It's just gone! I need a keeper... any volunteers?!

    Bookmark   October 24, 2007 at 8:26PM
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only if you let me read your books when you're done with them... LOL

    Bookmark   October 25, 2007 at 1:50PM
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I FOUND MY BOOKS! While I was hunting for a kitten-proof place to stash the dogs' breakfast (which is what my kitchen looks like now!) I opened a cabinet that I'd looked in twice last week.. and there they were, hiding behind who knows what (or why!). I'll stop bothering everyone now and get on with it here. Thank you all and greenleaffaerie (love the name) - you're welcome to all :-)!

    Bookmark   October 29, 2007 at 10:13PM
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If you're not familiar with it, check out You register your book there and then "set it free". This means leaving it in a plastic bag in a public place (bank, restroom, etc.), with instructions for the finder to go to the site and list that they found it. They can write a review after reading it and then set it free for someone else. This way you can track your book, which may travel out of state.

But know your area, first. Where I live there are a lot of people who feel so entitled they have no problem eating out of the bulk bins, and don't feel at all obligated to play along when they find a book, so it's just not as fun. ;-(

    Bookmark   November 4, 2007 at 9:47AM
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What a great idea! Trouble is I have way too many - probably be reported for littering or something. It does remind me of a funny thing that happened years ago. I was reading No Exit (Sartre) and happened to get on an elevator with it. Somewhere between getting on and the doors closing, my book slid out and down the crack, probably all the way to the basement to be forever trapped down there. Maybe I'll find another elevator and get rid of some more that way :-)!

    Bookmark   November 4, 2007 at 5:54PM
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LOL, Lucy! You've discovered the secret book chute that takes books to an undisclosed location - with no exit!

    Bookmark   November 4, 2007 at 10:28PM
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I'd be able to post more on this forum if it weren't for my 90 quadrillion books.

I've always felt that our house doesn't qualify as "small" (although it sure as heck does compared to the homes of alot in the D.C. area) because it's technically 3,000 sq ft (including the finished, walk-out basement).

But the main level of our sweet little ranch style home is 1,600 sq. ft. And that's where we live. Family of three with a golden retriever and a cat. It's just perfect for us upstairs with two exceptions: guests (we get alot of family visiting) and books! So, the plans for the basement remodel are a large library with floor to ceiling bookcases to store said books, a guest room and a guest bath. The last part is a laundry room, but that will be a total luxury.

So, can I joing "small house" anyway??


    Bookmark   June 20, 2008 at 3:28PM
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While I'm a reader and book fiend and have moved tons of books I am also cognizant of the fact that I don't want anything to control me, and I want to share. So in order to keep my number of books healthy, sane and reasonable every few years I try to go through them and weed out the ones I feel I will not read again or use for reference again (reference books are hard for me but with the internet, honestly I google almost everything now), or that aren't part of some complete FAV authors set, or that I didn't like that much to begin with. You have to be a little tough because at some level all books are good right?
Then take them to a thrift shop in the poorest part of town, or offer them free on Craigslist.
Try to think of the idea that you may awake a passion for reading in someone who just didn't have access to the right books before at the right time - how amazing would that be?

    Bookmark   July 12, 2008 at 8:22AM
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Had forgotten about this post. It did get me to pull out some of my favorite books. But there aren't a lot left as I have always given books, CDs, DVDs to the library when moving. I love the library and have always felt they gave me years of free service for so many hours of enjoyment.

Due to a new career which requires being on the road 90%, my son emptied his storage unit and close to everything he had. Except for 20+ boxes of books, which are now stored in my shed. I asked him if there was some way we could donate them or exchange. He looked at me like I was deluded and said "These are my friends". He has books from his childhood to now at 40 and rereads old favorites, as well as new ones, constantly. I would not have the heart to consider any of his books in another place.

A new consideration for those who love their books regardless of how many. Hope you found special places for all of them.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2008 at 8:45AM
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Well, seeing as this was resurrected - guess what? I moved again! Just got too claustrophobic in that other place and when a young local couple made me an offer in March, I couldn't refuse (see thread 'Score, I think"), so 6 wks ago, landed where I am now. I have SO much space now, but because of its warehousey nature, probably will eventually rot things (I'm a block from the ocean) in time, so I either need to get all the books into the 'living' part of the place, or just say the heck with them (Emagineer, your son sounds terrific!). Here I go again!

    Bookmark   July 13, 2008 at 6:13AM
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It sounds like you are renting, so this probably wouldn't be possible for you, but I saw this post and wanted to share my favorite small place book solution. When I was in high school, a friend's grandparents had a tiny cottage by the beach in Corona Del Mar, CA. They were book fiends like I was, and they built a plain shelf throughout the entire house about 15" from the ceiling that went around every wall in the place, including bathroom & kitchen. If the wall space was available, the bookshelf continued. It was a book lover's dream.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2008 at 2:37AM
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That is a great idea, but wouldn't be that practical here (lots of doors, windows, and I want the wall space for art (PS - I do own it, such as it is).

    Bookmark   July 25, 2008 at 6:03AM
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I really like the ideas Jkom posted. If one loves books than they should be part of your overall lifestyle. They can be art on the floor, stacked as tables, etc. I even saw a round dining table that had stacks of books hiding the center base and the concept worked great. Rent the movie "The Holiday". It is filmed in a small cottage and has books all over. The interior is a wonderful experience seeing how a small space is filled beyond. I want to live there.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2008 at 11:44AM
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I am still thrilled for you to have a "warehousey nature" House. My dream!!! OH What I could do with a house like that!!! So you and I are about neck and neck in getting sorted out. Sit down and have some tea. It will all get put away in it's own time. I keep telling myself that anyway.

I hope you can show us pictures. I wanted to do the shop house SO BAD but hubby was afraid he could not have gotten it all done. I know he could have but if he was afraid of it than I was not going to try to force the issue.He is 68 and likes to do it all himself.

I have already done a couple of things here that has helped with storage and would work for your books. I used my china cabinet as,think book end, for shelves that I keep my glass and china pieces on for my mosaics. Would work the same for books. Sort of gave the area a built in feel to it. For me I did have a curtain on it until the rod got robbed for another area until we can get another one. My trays of glass and china and stuff do not look as nice as your books do I am sure.

OH well he just came in on the four wheeler. Nice perk for living in small town. They let you drive them instead of car. Time to get ready to go to town. Yippiee. Maybe get that curtain rod.


    Bookmark   July 25, 2008 at 12:48PM
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There's a great book, "Living With Books" that shows people's homes who own a lot of books, and some people with home libraries.

Some of the advice is for way serious collectors, but it also has some practical advice, like how think to make the shelves, and how much weight they can take, and how to organize the books. It then has sources for shelves, library ladders, etc. And, of course, places to buy more books!

It's a rare source of a large and varied collection of photographs of rooms with a lot of books.

As for art, you can hang art right from the shelves. Just tap the nails right in the up-and-down parts. It looks really good. I treat a wall of bookshelves just like a wall, putting furniture in front of it, hanging art from it, putting lamps on the shelves, etc.

I do not consider having "too many" books a vice. I think it's really sad when I walk into a house and they have no/few books. But then perhaps they think I'm sad because I don't have whatever they value.

Just get a good duster!

    Bookmark   July 25, 2008 at 2:40PM
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Shades - Thanks for your vote :-). I would show pix (hopefully someday soon) but really there's not a lot to see yet as the pix I have are so full of the junk the previous owners left and don't give much sense of what it's like, plus I really have major clean ups to do, not to mention little things like drywall, floors, etc. etc. But yeah, it's fun!

    Bookmark   July 25, 2008 at 8:13PM
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Hi everyone,

I too am a book lover and had a gazillion books over the years. When we move from NY State to Mississippi, I could only take a few books with me. Choice and favorite authors. I do have to say it was enough to fill a floor to ceiling bookcase at four foot wide packed and stacked. I've been extremely good about keeping all in alphabetical order by author and by title.

There was a library nearby maybe five or six miles a way that I frequented and when my husband died they asked me if I wanted to volenteer there and I did. What I worked with were the donated books. They had a wall of them that were such a mess and each time I'd go, I'd start arrangeing them by author to try to make sense of it to me. Any ole how, I also had to sort them, stamp them and blacken out any thing that was personal written in them. It also gave me first dibs on the books. I was in heaven.

By then I had another ceiling to floor book case that was eleven foot wide. It spanned one entire wall. It also had places built in that housed five oak frames with my husband and childrens service pictures in it.

A couple of years went by and I decided to come back to New York State to live. Again, my poor books had to go by the way side. So my daughter in law donated the surplus to the boy scouts which were direly needed after Katrina.

Fast forward to today. I live in Senior Houseing. Very small space. My great room (means all purpose room) is set up as a dining room with a side chair as opposed to all the other apartments where every one has a sofa and recliners and a dining table tucked in somewhere. Each apartment is a duplicate or mirror of all the others. Again, my collection off books got ahead of me with NO place to store them.

Soooooo, had my brother in law help me build a book case to put on a very short wall in the foyer. Ohhh how nice that worked. Still not enough space. On my back wall behind the dining table, is a double window. With about four foot blank wall span on either side. Thank goodness it was centered. So off I went to the lumber yard, and had them cut what I needed to build a bookcase on either side. It really looks good and seems to have given me the space I need. I cannot imagine how beautiful it could be with a little paint and ingenuity (spelling) We are not allowed to paint here.

Of course I do have to say there are open books every where around me. So many are like old friends. At my age, I can read and re read and each time its like a new book.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2008 at 5:01AM
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What a lovely story. I can just about see the room you describe. Sounds warm and cozy. Good idea about the storage around the windows too. Even though I am storing things other then books the shoe (shelf) will fit. Going to see if I can do something like this in my studio.

Thanks Chris

    Bookmark   July 26, 2008 at 12:28PM
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I love my books, too. And I read and re-read favorite ones over and over again. Others I keep for reference. I'm curious about so many things.

However, I do go through and purge my books from time to time. My criteria are "Would I ever read this book again?", "Does this book contain information I might want to refer to not duplicated in another book?" and "Do I have a sentimental attachment to this book?" If the answer is yes to any of these questions I keep it. If not, I pass it along.

I have donated hundreds, very possibly thousands, of books over the years. And yes, I have more than that in my house.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2008 at 11:35PM
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I like to keep my books also. However, if I notice it getting out of hand I force myself to go through and choose some to take to the used bookstore. Yes, I know, this just perpetuates the cycle, but I'd end up buying books anyway, might as well get some used ones instead of giving the cash to B&N. Much less expensive this way.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2008 at 4:18PM
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