Monday, May 30, 2011

The dearly departing

Feeling inundated? Cluttered? There are solutions.
Those who love the sensations of paper and print, clinging to books despite electronic readers, can become hoarders of the best sort, jamming books into bags and backpacks, squeezing them onto shelves and bedside tables, sharing them with friends. But sometimes friends must part—at least those less-loved—and that’s where library sales, second-hand stores, book boxes and book swaps come in. In some cases, donated books make a big difference in others’ lives.
‘Read It and Reap’ feedback indicates readers stand firm: Give us this day our daily book! They treasure their books. As the mega-stores pare down their books and extend into other retail areas, we may even see a resurgence of small, independent bookstores. Every town needs a place to read, hang out with computer/wifi, meet friends, buy books and enjoy coffee and snacks. Is there anything better?
Admittedly, e-readers are aboard airplanes, in cafes and waiting rooms, but books aren’t going away. The reading life is about more than a screen: collectors love to acquire, and book lovers are no different. But we all need to thin the shelves occasionally. With over 1,000 books, I'm faced with the task too often, gleaning the chaff from the shelves. Parting is such sweet sorrow.
Here are some ways to pare down:
• Book exchanges. Have each club member bring books to a meeting. You set the rules: book for book, or open selection. Donate what’s left over to the local library.
• Store collections. Some cafes, like the Starbucks in Leominster, have a nook for “leave-one, take-one” choices. We’ve even seen them at The Strand movie theater lobby in Clinton, in medical offices, even some very good ones in our hairstylist’s waiting room.
• The Prison Book Program ( This national organization's Massachusetts chapter is in the basement of United First Parish Church in Quincy, as the "Lucy Parsons Bookstore." Donated books in good condition are redistributed to prisoners throughout the state, to provide educational and recreational reading for prisoners, especially as state budgets reduce funds for such materials. Prisoners aren’t allowed books from family or friends; they must either be shipped from bookstores and publishers or received through the prison library. This program accepts books with an ISBN (bar code) on the cover or jacket, and textbooks no more than three years old, but not damaged books, encyclopedias or academic journals and magazines. Phone (617) 423-3298 or write for drop-off details.
•'s buyback program accepts recent textbooks from a designated listing. You'll be paid, if they're accepted, with an credit.
• Used bookstores vary as to which topics they like, but often have websites listing their preferences. The Toadstool, an excellent bookstore with used and new books, is in Keene and Peterborough, N.H. The Book Bear on Route 9, West Brookfield ( is a big store, buying and selling. The Rabbit Hole in Fitchburg features an eclectic collection including used vinyl and books. The Haunted Bookshop in W. Boylston is another specialty shop with collections of uncommon books on history, art, medieval life. Call (508) 835-4738 for details. Barely Read Books on Route 20 in Sudbury is terrific. While some shops are better, and more varied, payback is usually a few dollars.
• Libraries. Most libraries hold daily, weekly and annual book sales as a way to raise money for operations. Worcester Public Library's "storefront" bookshop is open most days. Libraries love your new used books, children's books, classics in good condition, how-to manuals and cookbooks. (Check upcoming library sales at
• Worcester. John and Anne-Marie Monfredo, founders of Worcester: The City that Reads Committee, run an annual book drive (the fifth ended in May), seeking books for children in preschool through Grade 8. They are distributed to schools, preschools and local organizations in June. For more information, call the Monfredos at (508) 853-3444.
Ann Connery Frantz’s past columns are included on her blog about books and book clubs at (note the two ee’s). Email comments or questions to