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35 Fun Things to Do with Old Books – Donate, Upcycle, Decorate!

Calling all book lovers!

Is your house overrun with too many books?

Or have you had an unfortunate mishap that has damaged some of your old books?

This post is all about what you can do with your old books including:

  • places to donate them to be read again
  • ways to sell your unwanted books
  • craft projects for those too damaged to save; and
  • ways to give old books new life by decorating them!

Here is how we are going to organize these ideas. Scroll down or click for the section you are interested in!

things to do with old books

If your books are in good condition and you’re just looking to move them on to a new home to free up space in yours, then this list of places that might want your old books should help.

Local Libraries

Local public libraries are a great idea to start, especially if you aren’t that interested in selling your books and you just want them to end up somewhere where they will be enjoyed.

Now your library may not be interested in all your books because storage space will be at a premium and there is an admin cost to sorting through lots of old books.

However, if you read popular fiction or have lots of children’s books to donate they might be super grateful!

things to do with old books
Photo: Rebecca Kohn

Community Center

Is there a local community center or seniors center in your area that has (or would like to have) a book lending or book swap area?

It’s worth dropping in and asking if they would like to take some or all of your unwanted books.

Book Drives & Book Drop Boxes

Some non-profit organizations and charities do book drives where they will publicize that they are looking for donated books.

There will usually be a drop-off point and a set deadline. Look out for these or mark them on your calendar if they are annual events – they can be a great reminder to do a clear-out!

Here where I live in the UK there are also charities and non-profits that have a drop box for books that can be donated all year round. Where I am these are located next to the big recycling bins in supermarket car parks.

Thrift Shop

Local thrift stores or charity shops (as we call them here in the UK), are often great places to donate boxes of books. Especially fiction and paperback books which sell well in these kinds of shops.

Larger thrift shops and charitable organizations can sometimes also arrange free pickup!

Other places that might accept Book Donations

These are some other great options for places where you might be able to donate books:

  • Local Hospitals
  • Literacy Programs
  • Local School
  • Local Church
  • Local Coffee Shop
  • Book Clubs
  • Mom & Baby Cafe’s (children’s books)
  • Friends and Family Members (but I’m guessing you started there!)

Selling Books – especially Old Textbooks

Obviously, if you know of any college students who could use your unwanted textbooks it would be super nice of you to just gift them to them (who doesn’t like free books?)

However, if you don’t there is a very strong market for used textbooks, so these are usually some of the easier types of books to sell (assuming they aren’t 50 years out of date!)

Selling old books can be a great way to earn a bit of extra cash and reduce your carbon footprint.

Here are some places to try:

NOTE: these suggestions work for all types of books, but college textbooks and how-to style hardcover books generally go for a more reasonable price than paperback fiction books.

  • Ebay
  • Amazon (you would need to open a vendor account which would only be worth it if you have a lot of books to sell on a regular basis)
  • Book Selling Apps – Search ‘sell books’ in the app store on your phone and you will find plenty of options (but the money you get will be on the lower end just so you know!)

Garage Sale

If all else fails there are always garage sales or yard sales. Just set up your books (and other unwanted items) on your lawn, set up an eye-catching sign, and get selling!

Upcycling Old Books – 35 Ideas!

35 Fun Things to do with Old Books

Perhaps you've exhausted your routes for donating old books or had something unfortunate happen to your books (like a spilled cup of coffee or a tear-happy toddler).

In this case, you might like the ideas below for crafting and decorating with your books.

Obviously, the upcycling and crafting ideas are best for books that have some damage or are just so unpopular that you can't find anyone who would want them.

I'm not in favor of tearing up perfectly good books just to be clear!

But there are also loads of great decorating ideas that keep your books intact and readable!

Scroll further down if you want fun ideas for using books to decorate for the holidays!

Upcycled Book Ideas for the Holidays

From Christmas to Halloween and Valentine's - if you like getting in the holiday spirit here are some fun ways to use your books in the process!

If you are an avid reader I hope you have found a good idea or two in this list of fun things to do with old books.

I’d love to hear what you’ve done with your old books: did you decorate them? Donate them? Or turn them into gifts and wall art?

Leave me a comment or find me on social media (links above and in the footer) to let me know!

Top Tips

  • For the love of books, please don’t tear up new books for these craft projects! Instead have a hunt around family members and friends, your local flea market, and even the recycling bin if you’re looking to find books that are worse for wear and in need of upcycling.
  • If you’re stamping books, make sure to test out your stamping technique on pieces of scrap paper first! It’s inevitable that some letters will turn out a bit crooked, but that adds to their charm!


How old does a book have to be to be considered vintage?

To be considered vintage, a book usually needs to be over 50 years old but less than 100 years old. Anything above 100 is usually considered ‘antique’.

The definition of vintage does not just stop at age but the book’s nostalgic value. For this reason, collectible, mid-century books and comics are considered vintage.

How do I find out how much my old books are worth?

Age alone is not a key factor in determining the value of a book. You’ll need to take into account the condition of the book, its rarity, and demand for the book.

The easiest way to figure out the value of a book is to look at book price comparison websites where you type in the book’s name, author, and other key details.

Is it possible to restore an old book?

If you have an old book that is past its best but you want to keep it, you don’t have to throw it away or upcycle it. You may be able to get it restored by a professional bookbinder instead.

Bookbinders can restore an old book’s condition, fixing everything from a detached spine to torn pages.

If you’re looking for more fun ideas for upcycling around the home, check out these posts!

Handmade Valentine’s Day Gifts you can DIY or Buy

How To Make A Junk Journal

Art Deco Style Upcycle Projects

DIY Geometric Plant Hanger

How to Marble with Nail Polish – Upcycled Mug Craft

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