Reading Matters

N.C. writers explain how they handle the overflow of books

I once saw a woman toss a hardback book in the trash. I almost called the cops.

But what can you do? They pile up. They’re heavy. I give books I no longer want to Goodwill. Or I leave a box on the loading dock of the public library. Or I coerce friends into taking a few home. Occasionally, I’ll leave two or three in the waiting rooms of doctors’ offices.

Writers are notorious book accumulators. I asked around the state how others handle the overflow. Here’s what they said.

Wilmington novelist Wiley Cash (“This Dark Road to Mercy”):

“If you come to our house for dinner, there’s a good chance you’re leaving with an armful of books.”

Hillsborough novelist Lee Smith (“Guests on Earth” ):

“I donate them to several different libraries, but I’ve got to do this again ASAP because right now I am seriously afraid that our entire upstairs is going to collapse.”

Essayist and Red Clay Ramblers pianist Bland Simpson (“The Great Dismal”):

“I’m trying to get better about taking books from home and passing them along to students.”

Charlotte memoirist Charla Muller (“365 Nights: A Memoir of Intimacy”):

“I donate to my church attic sale, and I repackage them as an occasional hostess gift or thank-you.”

Novelist and director of UNC Asheville’s Great Smokies Writing Program Tommy Hays (“What I Came to Tell You”):

“I take them to the Battery Park Book Exchange Wine Bar in the Grove Arcade in downtown Asheville ( It’s a beautiful, cozy place that has the intimacy of a personal library but serves wine and food as well as used books. They’ll pay you in cash or with credit toward wine and food. Guess which one I opt for?”

Charlotte memoirist and novelist Judy Goldman (“Losing My Sister”):

“Before I moved to a condo, I asked my grown children to pick the books they wanted. Then I posted on Facebook for everyone to bring bags, that I was giving away ‘books to a good home.’ Then I missed my books so much I took back the ones I’d given my children.”

Chapel Hill novelist Sarah Dessen (“Saint Anything”):

“For me, foreign editions are the hardest to place in good homes. I often take them up to the foreign language department at UNC and leave them in the hallway with a sign that says FREE BOOKS. It works!”

Davidson novelist, poet and prof Alan Michael Parker (“The Committee on Town Happiness”):

“I don’t (get rid of books). It’s a problem.”