This is not so much a blog entry as it is a plea on behalf of people in desperate need of escape. As a book critic for several publications I receive, on average, eight-to-twelve books every month. It goes without exaggeration that books have a tendency to pile up. Stacks in every nook and corner of our small home quickly escalate from evidence of a moderate reader to hoarder status. A couple of decades ago when I first started reviewing books I simply gave them to friends or - forgive me - tossed the not-so-great ones into the recycling bin. Occasionally an editor would send me the first edition of a book that I had reviewed pre-publication, and I started donating these to my local library. I still do this, but for some reason I get sent fewer follow up first editions these days.
Soon enough my friends began to avoid talking about books out of dread that I would chase them down the driveway hauling a shopping bagful, pleading with them to take these few off my hands. A few years ago my husband found a book depository box in the parking lot of a nearby supermarket. Dropping the books down the chute and speeding off felt somehow not right. The giant, dumpster-like box didn't say what the books' fate was. Were they donated? Were they read? Were they resold or recycled? I didn't know. At least, though, they were no longer a home fire hazard.
Finally my lovely daughter-in-law made a suggestion that suits me just fine. She said I should donate the books to one of the local cancer centers. It seems that people who must undergo chemotherapy have countless boring hours with nothing to do, little to occupy their minds save their dire bad luck. However, if they can have a cozy mystery or a Georgian period romance novel to read those hours might move along more quickly. To say nothing of lifting their fertile imaginations to the task of whether the butler did it, or if Lady Esther will allow the dashing Marquis to caress her bodice. So I did just that. I packed up two big shopping bags full of mostly adult fiction and (uplifting) memoir, took them to the cancer treatment center and received sincere thanks. It seems they can never get enough books.
So here is my plea. I know you likely don't receive the quantity of books that I do but I know, as a lifelong reader, you have books that you've already read and that are gathering dust. So please think about filling a shopping bag or two and donating them to your local cancer treatment center. They may even offer a receipt for the donation's tax deduction. But the real reward is knowing that the books you loved (or tolerated) are doing good work, transporting somebody somewhere more exciting than that dismal hospital room.