Why you should hesitate to give books as gifts and instead just throw them out

I wrote this as a blog post for Penguin blog about ten years ago (when I guest-blogged for them), and it has disappeared from Google.  So I thought I would serve up another, slightly different version to keep it circulating.  Here goes:

Most of you should throw books out — your used copies that is — instead of gifting them.  If you donate the otherwise-thrashed book somewhere, someone might read it.  OK, maybe that person will read one more book in life but more likely that book will substitute for that person reading some other book instead.  Or substitute for watching a wonderful movie.

So you have to ask yourself — this book — is it better on average than what an attracted reader might otherwise spend time with?  Even within any particular point of view most books simply aren’t that good, and furthermore many books end up being wrong.  These books are traps for the unwary, and furthermore gifting the book puts some sentimental value on it, thereby increasing the chance that it is read.  Gift very selectively!  And ponder the margin.

You should be most likely to give book gifts to people whose reading taste you don’t respect very much.  That said, sometimes a very bad book can be useful because it might appeal to “bad” readers and lure them away from even worse books.  Please make all the appropriate calculations.

Alternatively, if a rational friend of yours gives you a book, perhaps you should feel a little insulted.

How good is the very best next book that you haven’t read but maybe are on the verge of picking up?  So many choices in life hinge on that neglected variable.

Toss it I say!

Comments

For another contrarian view I propose that gifting fiction is still OK as all of it is equally worthless.

Interesting POV regarding equal “worthlessness” of fiction. Before writing off fiction so generally, an important age -old question is why do we people tell stories alll? Why have we since long before recorded history? There’s a power in stories - books, plays, tv, other what have yous - that often slips under the radar In favor of non-fiction...non-contextual info and fact gathering. Just sayin 😉

Your argument holds for alcohol as well.

Here is a whole list of classic novels that are instructive for economists:
http://www.enlightenmenteconomics.com/blog/index.php/2018/09/classics-for-economists-2/

How about this: Learning about the world requires facts as inputs. If fiction wasn't horseshit you wouldn't need to make it up.

Good fiction is never fact-free. Fiction serves as a framework to tie facts, speculation and experience from scores of different subjects into a cohesive whole rather than presenting them as unrelated pieces. If you can't discern the fact from the fictional framework, you need to read more fiction.

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Here is what passes for status signaling in Tyler Cowen tiny, perverted world.

Yes, perhaps if your universe is mostly limited to other faux-educated, self-absorbed, globalist plutocrats, your least favorite six feet of half-baked, Marx 1.5, social policy gobblygook will likely not be too well received as a gift by your fellow kindred spirits when there are so many other exciting new tomes available incorporating Marx 2.5 (!!) and more up-to-date social policy gobblygook.

You know of course that you exist within this set of individuals (it seems to be assumed) if you own no books in your library that, at least in your estimation, contain any timeless wisdom and insight into the human condition and/or you are unaware that some poor soul, somewhere on Earth might benefit from such a thing.

That individual movies have a higher probability of being "wonderful" vs books is almost as obnoxious as the conceit that throwing away books is one of the small steps toward a much better world.

The icing on this gateaux faux is that this isn't a problem that actually exists - don't believe his BS.

Accusing the social milieu of Tyler fricking Cowen of being in the grip of endless repetitions of Marxism is one of the strangest things I've heard this week.

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Like the line in the movie "Sideways":
"Good, I like non-fiction. There is so much to know about this world. I think you read something somebody just invented, waste of time."

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

My grandfather used to burn books.

Same. My father stashed a lot of books in his father's attic after college only to find all of them burned when he checked years later. I think he mostly wanted them for sentimental value.

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

The idea of taking read books to a local used bookstore is probably not the sort of thing that a publisher would like to distribute on its web site. Authors don't seem big supporters of used bookstores either, actually.

Though it is surprising that a man with such awe at the power of markets to bring us symphony performances in tax payer funded concert halls would not discuss letting the market function so as to optimize the end results of book reading. Including avoiding any need to gift an already read book to anybody at all.

And as a used book store is interested in profit, they already provide a first level filter in throwing out read books, without the reader's mood affiliation? status signalling? getting in the way of such decision making,

As a note - makes you wonder how many books Prof. Cowen has ever shared with children, or how that perspective would be different from giving read books to other adults.

" Authors don't seem big supporters of used bookstores either."

And then there's the world's largest (used) bookstore: Amazon. A physical used bookstore tends to be an exercise in serendipity, but an order for a used book from an Amazon used-book vendor is far more likely to mean one less new-book sale.

Then again, Amazon pioneered mass acceptance of e-books, where encryption and licensing effectively thwart markets in used e-books.

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

It's well-known that Tyler "liberates" books by just leaving them in public places for someone else to pick up.

We now know how much he thinks of the average reader!

Well known, but there are always people who have yet to read how Prof. Cowen reads books - 'Tyler Cowen sits with a cranberry juice and a pile of books he no longer intends to read. He's at Harry's Tap Room, near the Air France ticket counter in the main terminal of Dulles International Airport, on his way to São Paulo. Two days ago he e-mailed me his reading list for the trip—27 books—and I vowed to keep up with it. Already, before he boards, he has assembled a pile of discards. "Unger. I'd say I browsed it. I looked at every page," he says. "There's nothing wrong with the book. It's a good book to stir up leftists." Roberto Mangabeira Unger's The Left Alternative falls with a thud to the table.

Cowen, 49, has round features, a hesitant posture, and an unconcerned haircut. He handles each book as he ticks it off his list. "This I discarded. It appeared to get a good review, but there's no framework, just scattered vignettes. I looked at 20, 30 pages." Sarah Vowell's Unfamiliar Fishes, thud. Cowen's first rule of reading is as follows: You need not finish. He takes up books with great hope and no mercy, and when he is done—sometimes after five minutes—he abandons them in public, an act he calls a "liberation."' https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2011-05-26/tyler-cowen-americas-hottest-economist

Makes you wonder whose liberation Prof. Cowen is most concerned about - his own, or that of the unfortunate reader who picks up a book that has been left behind as trash unworthy of further attention from its previous owner.

(On a cynical note - at least in the past, a lot of professors, reviewers, etc. made a fair bit of pocket change selling all the advance/evaluation/review copies they receive. It seems as if Prof. Cowen never engaged in such commonplace commercial transactions - or is no longer interested in admitting to or furthering the practice.)

It's a rare alignment, but +1 to both Dan & Prior....

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

By this logic, why give anyone anything, as they might substitute consuming it for something that would make them better off?

Sure, it's worth considering substitution effects. (Like perhaps that of writing blog posts...?) But most of the time we give books away, we generally think it's better than the marginal book for the receiver, and given our likely above-average understanding of their preferences, we're probably right.

Yes, why?

Don't compare your understanding of his preference to an average person's understanding; you must compare it to recipient's understanding of himself. Usually, we are clueless about what other people are actually like. The best gifts are one that indicate an understanding of the other, and invite them to something a bit new. I try to give only those such gifts, and ignore the prescribed "gift-giving seasons."

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Does this logic apply just as well to book recommendations, particularly "self-recommending" ones?

Tyler said "most of you should throw books out", note the "most of you" in particular. He did not expand on what are the exceptions but they probably involve superior intellect that allows one's gifts and recommendations to be likewise superior to the recipient's own choice.

People actually do ask Tyler for book recommendations, far more than they ask the average person. So, if Tyler was humble but observant, he would defer to everyone else's judgement about who are the best recommenders of books and conclude that he was one of them.

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

There are lots of books I'd like to read if my local library had them. Please at least give used books to libraries. Granted, many libraries are culling books from the archives due to space constraints, but maybe someone will find that book in the interim.

Used books are incredibly cheap and often come from library stock. Try bookfinder com search engine (I have no affiliation).

'and often come from library stock'

Whether that coming from the library was approved for disposal or not. In the past, no used book store would ever touch a library book - they just did not need the suspicion they were playing the role of fence to thieves.

However, there is no question that libraries are freely entitled to sell old books from their collection, and do.

I have bought a number of books that were library copies. They are in great shape given how old they are and some even still had the checkout log in them -- checked out once in the last 10 years. In those cases it's clear it's the library itself getting rid of it. Also I find it hard to imagine anyone stealing books only to sell them that cheap, it's just not worth the bother. I think they are likely gifted by the library to the used book seller to hopefully find them a new owner rather than to discard them completely.

This by the way would be a great example where market and profit-interested intermediaries and aggregators is used to find a better solution than would be possible by library trying to give the books away directly -- without those resellers those books would have never found a grateful owner in me. I live on the other side of the world from those libraries and routinely pay 2-10x more for the shipping of the used book than the book itself.

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

'Please at least give used books to libraries.'

Speaking as someone who volunteers at a library, please don't - unless you are donating the books to be sold at a library book sale. And hard as this might be to imagine, just like a used book store, a library will also perform a first level filter on what hits the paper recycling dumpster and what doesn't - though most likely not as you stand there.

I'll do what I damn please with my used books. If you don't like the books I give to your library, you can do what you damn please with them, but there are only so many hours in a day and a library seems like a good place for books.

My local library has hundreds of thousands of books and I'd be surprised if they purchased them all new. So where did they get them?

The library also has a drop-off location for book donations.

'I'll do what I damn please with my used books.'

Just as I, speaking as someone who has occasionally been involved in people donating their used books, will tell you to not leave your 4 boxes of used books on the library premises, as we have no interest in playing the role of your trash disposal.

'you can do what you damn please with them'

We do, including not even allowing them to be left on the premises.

'and I'd be surprised if they purchased them all new'

I would be extremely surprised if they bought less than 99.99% of a hundred thousand books new. In part, you do know there are library editions which are printed with the idea of being part of a library collection, right? Normal editions (much less book club editions) are not intended for repeated use, as noted by wikipedia - 'A library edition may appear to be the same as copies appearing in shops and almost certainly uses the same setting. However, the binding and hinges are made extra strong to allow for the greater wear and tear in library books. This is analogous to the "police and taxi" packages for automobiles, in which heavier brakes and other upgrades are made to withstand harsher-than-standard use and longer duty cycles.' https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edition_%28book%29#Library_edition

'The library also has a drop-off location for book donations.'

In which case, your library is interested in book donations. The library where I volunteer does not have a drop-off location for book donations (none of the libraries in the system do, but that is also because most towns have multiple locations to drop off and pick up books for free), and absolutely no interest in one.

Respond

Add Comment

"a library seems like a good place for books"

That is what most people still believe, but, unqualified, it's a statement that would prompt derision in the ALA. "Vibrant" and books are typically presented as antitheses.

Beyond the cover-out display of new books, among which there are always one or two of interest, the community library's used book room has a better selection than its mostly vacant "stacks" (though I am always expecting the quality to drop off as the demographics of the area shift from Boomers with a university or government affiliation, to Crazy Rich Terrans).*

*Did you know - I certainly didn't until I saw them trading recommendations on NextDoor - that people now pay a service to teach their child how to ride a bike?

Cannot speak in any way, shape, or form for the ALA, but lending libraries need to make space for new acquisitions. And the way they do this is to weed out old books - some due to damage, some due to a lack of interest in terms of being checked out over a certain time scale, and some simply because not all books age equally well (no well run lending library is likely to keep a copy of 'Introduction To MS-DOS 5' around).

Lending libraries are not archives, though many people seem to confuse the two functions.

Well do I know it! - having been a library clerk there myself. I remember when weeding became a weekly occurrence, how the patrons were aghast at the largely-empty shelves - and my boss reassured them that the shelves would quickly fill up again. Strangely, that never happened, you can see clear across the library to this day. But it didn't matter, circulation fell off precipitously over the next few years anyway. People got used to not expecting to find anything, and they stopped browsing. They were puzzled when they could only find book #3 in a series. No book on bicycle repair. A dozen books on knitting instead of fifty. Far fewer travel guides, perennially popular, because those were weeded on a schedule and then it turned out most of the purveyors stopped publishing print editions, evidently. Finally, it emerged that it was less the titles than the numbers: there were a lot of Dewey numbers that seemed to be associated with a checkout of four times in three years. Often a book would be weeded because "we can find something newer." You may have to trust me, c_p, when I note that I was the only employee much familiar with books (perhaps I go too far, a handful truly were experts on YA), though library degree-less. In vain would I point out - "This is the book on this topic - there is no other - if you seek to replace it [a perfectly serviceable, clean copy], you will replace it with this book ..." Always true of local and regional things that a community library naturally contained.

Of course, if such things reinforced the drop in circulation, it was presumably minor in comparison to other trends. So no worries. The library is principally for programming now, and giving the tutors a place to meet with the kids.

I must mention my favorite weeding episode: one evening when the library was quiet my fellow-clerks weeded the poetry and drama section (which consisted of perhaps seven or eight shelves). In their zeal they weeded it all, sticking faithfully to the rule that had been established - if it had not checked out more than twice in the last year, or if it looked sort of old, it goes. I watched in amazement as the poetry and drama section was totally defoliated. They worked fast and quickly had the library markings scored through with Sharpie and the "Discontinued" stamp applied. I happily pointed out to the librarian that the only book that remained was a copy of "The Miracle Worker," from which to recreate all of Western civilization. :-)

The associate director was a little chagrined when I pointed out that the weeding "policy" had resulted in the loss of a whole Dewey category, and set about replacing - in some cases the exact copy - some of the very nice Oxford "collected whatevers," the Riverside Shakespeare, and whatnot; and purchased some of her favorites, Rumi and Mary Oliver, to fill out a couple of shelves.

My husband has never stopped regretting a huge Asian poetry compendium that he specially enjoyed, but failed to pre-emptively save by checking out often enough.

You will say - well, that's not how weeding should be done - it should be overseen by librarians! No doubt. And after the Massacre of the 800s (funny as I found it) I gently suggested as much to my superiors (the "librarians," remember), to whom the thought had not occurred, and they began to supervise my co-workers. But by then they had already rampaged over the library for a couple of years.

Probably a very isolated case!

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Most libraries are far more likely to sell donated books than to put them into circulation.

Part of the reason is the cost of adding the used book to the library's catalog, and perhaps inspecting it and then putting it in a library binding.

But mostly it's because thy librarians are jealous librarians, and reserve unto themselves the authority to decide what's fit for the library's bookstacks (and what's not).

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

"If a rational friend of yours gives you the benefit of the doubt, perhaps you should feel a little insulted."

I'm always insulted when i'm around my rational friends, but never more than when they give me something.

Respond

Add Comment

I claim that this advice is exactly wrong. Books, like TV shows and movies, are network goods. The more people who have read the same book - especially the more people I know who have read the same book - the more value reading the book has. It follows that there is social benefit to creating incentives to have friends read the same books, irrespective of what books they are. Therefore, you should go out of your way to give books to friends after you have read them,

Dianetics, anything from Dan Brown, Atlas Shrugged, Tolkien - Prof. Cowen might have something of a point, depending on how you look at it.

Yes, Tyler always has something of a point, depending on how you look at it. This old post reminds his readers that he has not changed: he likes to ask "big" questions and to respond them with "little" answers. I mean big for the high level of abstraction, and little for the high vagueness of his arguments.

He prefers to entertain his readers rather than to engage them in serious thinking. Yes, specialization facilitates signaling rationality and trustworthiness, but has its own dark side: it makes hard, very hard, to address big questions that go beyond your field of knowledge (assuming that you have at least one).

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

// " ...most books simply aren’t that good, and furthermore many books end up being wrong. " // --TC

yup, most books are simply Noise

The supposed distinction between Fiction & Non-Fiction books is highly arbitrary.

Books are obsolete, long-format, outrageously slow communication methods. Like the Telegraph, they were very useful in their day... but like men's neckties, books are now mostly silly cultural customs -- still heavily promoted by the equally ponderous, self-promoting and obsolescent education establishment.

95% of books are way too long -- most should have been essays, at best.

People who read and luv books of fiction seek temporary escape from reality -- alcohol is a more efficient alternative ... and does not normally dull the mind as much long term. Wise persons avoid both fiction and alcohol.

I can be more pedant. Essays are for the dumb, scientific articles are already 300 years old.

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Next, why a furniture maker's blog says you should never go to antique stores?

Respond

Add Comment

The argument is totally hopeless. I have not given away many books I've read mainly because I like them and want to keep them but the ones I have given away I have liked the book and the reason for giving it to someone is to share that experience.

The argument that a person given a book might miss out on reading another book can be reversed. The book given can wake interests and views the person given the book to has not thought of before.

And ultimately to read a book given to you is on you, there is no obligation to read books given to you.

Reading this comment, it occurs to me that perhaps Prof. Cowen feels his self-recommending recommendations should weigh more heavily than someone who actually knows the person that a book is being given to.

Maybe he could have a Conversation with Tyler to explore the idea - which is the conversation he wants to have, after all.

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Here is a very good essay on how to make a big decision: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/01/opinion/sunday/how-make-big-decision.html As one would suspect, making a list of pros and cons is a good start. But what I found most interesting is that few organizational decision makers actually consider more than one alternative, even though a successful decision correlates very strongly with the number of alternatives considered. So how does one assess alternatives? By a process called scenario planning, in which the decision makers concoct different stories (outcomes) for different alternatives. Multiple stories necessitate a deep analysis of the forces that shape the story. Cowen's blog post about the decision to gift a book uses a simple version of scenario planning. One wonders if economic organization decision makers, such as the Fed, use scenario planning. Indeed, having read Geithner's memoir, I'm not sure he and the other decision makers used scenario planning when they decided to allow Lehman Brothers to fail. [I should point out that in a TED talk Cowen lectured on the fallacy of simple stories, but I don't believe he objects to scenario planning, the book gifting post here being a simple version of it.]

Ah, Giethner -- they guy who skated on tax evasion with the lame 'TurboTax ate my homework' excuse. Good thing for him he wasn't a member of the Trump administration or he'd have found himself in the cell next to Manafort.

It's my impression that the Trump administration never uses scenario planning when making a big decision. Rather, big decisions are made by Mr. Trump based on his gut, whether to meet with a dictator or to adopt tariffs. One can only hope that decisions made with the gut correlate positively with the size of the gut.

Anything based on his gut is going to be big.

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Rayward,

As a professional analyst, I assure you that decision support goes much, much further than just "scenario analysis". But it's a start.

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

I was going to write that DC's Goodwill makes money from a donated book sale each year but checking on its status I see the sale ended in 2001 as it was not good business anymore.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/2002/11/14/goodwill-ends-book-sale/9b58b01e-7bcd-470b-a836-c66af22d5301/

Respond

Add Comment

How does Tyler's theory relate to college texts? Since students are paying the salary of their professors shouldn't those mentors have the personal knowledge of their field to dispense and the books readily and cheaply available to supplement that knowledge? College textbooks have been a national scandal for decades. Hopefully the internet might alleviate what amounts to a crime.

The absurdly high prices of mandatory textbooks is one of the reasons people irrationally cling to them. It's hard to be forced to spend $500 on something useless and then throw it away.

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

I read so much at my job I hardly ever read a paper book anymore, just listen to audiobooks. you can't gift those, or throw them away for that matter.

Indeed. And there is no quick and easy way to remove the irritating DRM from audiobooks, which is relatively easier with e-books.

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

'Please make all the appropriate calculations."

And show your work! This is why they leave those blank pages at the end.

Respond

Add Comment

Shouldn't you extend this logic to argue you should throw out a book the moment you buy it? After all, it's a sunk cost and most books aren't very good. Better to watch a movie.

Why is it assumed that a generic movie will be better than a book? What is someone gives a movie to watch?

Steve

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Tyler assumes the binding constraint is time. It is for him. But for many people it is wealth. (Yes, even used books.)

Respond

Add Comment

What does this imply for organizations (especially non-profits) that subsidize books? Is a subsidized (a partial gift) book more insulting than a gift book?

Respond

Add Comment

That finally convienced me to throw all my Tyler Cowen written books in the garbage can.

Respond

Add Comment

I'll often look for a specific author I like or am interested in at these used book fairs. If a book isn't there, I won't buy it and won't read another book. So, I disagree with Tyler's conclusion. A book won't necessarily be substituted out with another. If it's a truly crappy book, then go ahead and curate for society, but otherwise - donate them. One final point, if a used book is substituted with a new one, we've created more waste.

Respond

Add Comment

I don't think books are always bad gifts, though they can be. But instead of dumping books, find a book fair. There are two annual book fairs in my community and both raise funds for charities (admirable ones, I think) by selling discarded books very cheaply, something this post does not account for. It seems wrong, and arrogant, to decide whether someone else will enjoy a discarded book more than a wonderful movie--a book fair lets them decide for themselves. Given that it takes almost no effort at all to discover book fairs that raise funds for charity and that provide books at a discount sale to prospective readers, this is the course that produces the highest utility / energy and time invested.

Respond

Add Comment

The laundry business I frequent has a "leave a book; take a book" shelf. It was almost entirely fiction so I left some non-fiction (Nassim Taleb, economics textbook, Malcolm Gladwell, etc.) and almost all had been taken upon my next visit. Gifting can be fine if it's this sort of gifting in which the receiver is in complete control of the transaction.

Respond

Add Comment

If you donate the otherwise-thrashed book somewhere, someone might read it. OK, maybe that person will read one more book in life but more likely that book will substitute for that person reading some other book instead. Or substitute for watching a wonderful movie.

Odd to see this paternalism. Shouldn't we leave these decisions up to the recipient? Giving someone a book doesn't equate to demanding that they read it.

Respond

Add Comment

Professor, can you recommend a good grammar book that tackles the subject of conversion of verbs to nouns? I want to gift it.

Verbing weirds language.

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

I don't follow the logic of this post. When a person picks up a donated book, he risks selecting a mediocre book that he'd be better off skipping in favor of a high-quality new book. Sure, but in a world where there are no used or donated books, wouldn't this same person simply select mediocre new books and overlook high quality books? If he picks crap in one context, why wouldn't he pick crap in another? Whether the books are old or new, our mediocre person still has mediocre taste.

Respond

Add Comment

"How good is the very best next book that you haven’t read but maybe are on the verge of picking up? "

The very best next book is probably incredibly good, no matter how prolific a reader one is. The trouble is finding them, and in finding people who can also appreciate and savor and share the experience of it. How many people now alive (apart from myself) have read, say, 'Wooden Leg: A Warrior Who Fought Custer' and have also read Celine's 'Journey to the End of the Night', or Hardy's 'The Mayor of Casterbridge', or 'Hrafnkel's Saga', or Sallust's 'The Conspiracy of Catiline'? It is not a simple matter to be exposed to great literature; the vast majority of people live their lives such that they avoid it almost entirely. Even I, though I spend a great deal of time reading and seeking out great books, know that there will be thousands of great works I shall never manage to encounter. The logic of the original post seems to hold only if the books one should throw out instead of gifting are randomly selected--or perhaps I should say, the original post would be better replaced with Sturgeon's Law: '90% of everything is crap'.

that was interesting. please do not hold it against me that I have never read a book about Custer. that being said, I know more about cavalry charges and their eventual results than he did. In that sense, reading a book about Custer - whether it be pro-Custer or anti-Custer .... might make me less aware of the world! I am reading the Mayor of Casterbridge right now - I plan to spend a year reading it, a half hour here, an hour there, eventually I will read it all, if I am alive a year for now .... the slow reading is out of respect for the fact that the author is a poet.

I dip into Sallust every once in a while - I own one of the old versions of the Latin text, with macrons, because with those old orators I find the macrons useful.

I have moved from one residence to another 10 times with Eddison's translation of a saga somewhere in the moving van. Eventually I will give that wonderful book to someone (it has an inscription, even).

Well, I agree with you on Sturgeon's law, except that I would take it one more step - much more than 90 percent of everything is not worth reading : 90 percent of what we are told is worth reading, even by people we trust, is not worth reading. And, while I know nothing of poor mad Celine beyond the fact that every time I read a few lines I think, did not Lewis Carroll do this better, in those scenes at the sea shore and in those mad English garden corners???? .... while I know that, I also know that - back to the Norse sagas - there are very good sagas out there, full of life and worth attending to, and worth talking about with cherished friends .... and I cannot criticize Hardy, who wrote at least a few lines of immortal poetry, although his lines of dialog in the novels are often fake, whereas his descriptions of what he saw as nature and as natural are only rarely fake .... and like I said, Sallust had a good Latin prose style. I mean, so do I, compared to most people, but only very rarely, and his (Sallust's) prose style came to him naturally .....

One reason people like me ... and perhaps you, I have no idea who you are, my computer disables commenter names on this website .... one reason why we post comments, again and again, thousands of words every month in some cases ... is the hope that the most interesting ten percent of the most interesting ten percent of what we say is worth saying.

and ...

Words are so unlike life! The people I care about, I can look at them or hear them talk and think ... wow, this is what life is, words are, qua words, not all that important, being virtuous, being reliable, being able to help out people you care about, protect them from idiots ... that is important.

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Can I volunteer to receive most (all) of Prof Cowens' cast-off books? They are guaranteed to go to a reader with much higher than average appreciation of them!

I am in no hurry. For convenience, he could pile them up and despatch every 6 months. I could be persuaded to pay freight postage!

Respond

Add Comment

Don't try to find big meaning where was none to begin with: Tyler was simply shilling for his publisher, it's that simple.

My neighborhood has a bunch of free for all mini-libraries installed frequently along the sidewalks. Just tiny wooden kiosks. I pass three of them when walking my dog. This is where I discard my books and this is how I know that the books are rotated briskly.

Respond

Add Comment

I always throw out fiction written in the last half of the 20th century....

Respond

Add Comment

I volunteer at Books through Bars, a not-for-profit that sends books to inmates in of state and federal prisons in Pennsylvania, and sometimes elsewhere in the mid-Atlantic area. We send books in response to inmates requests, doing the best we can. Paperback fiction is great, especially urban fiction, as well as adventure, suspense, mystery, and the like. (Many prisons will not accept hardbacks.) What we don't use we sell (assuming that it has a retail market value of US$10 or more, so a lot of good hardback non-fiction is welcome as we can sell it and use the money for mailing expenses, books for which we have a demand that we don't get, and the like. Everyone involved with BTB is a volunteer, so nothing goes on salary.

Respond

Add Comment

donate used books to the knowledge and information centre on the ground floor at st thomas' hospital, london, SE1.

they're then sold at 50p each - all profits go to the hospital charity.

p.s. osterley bookshop is selling all books at half-price in september.

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment