It is is a lovely time of year.

of fruits . . .

. . . seedheads . . .

. . . and turning leaves.

Jesus seems even more than ordinarily contemplative. . .

. . . and Bruce enjoys sampling the Autumnal undergrowth. . .

For academics as well as students, this is back-to-school season – the moment when one puts away one’s research (one has never done quite enough), begins to prepare new lectures (groan), and faces the busy realities of a new semester. For me, this also meant hideously long days, commuting in the dark, and rarely ever getting outside to enjoy what I like most about this time of year. But this September is different: I shall continue my research and writing (huzzah) and I shall walk with my dog in the woods every day (an even louder huzzah). I no longer have the job or the commute. . . but I do have the boxes.

Forty-nine large boxes to be exact. They contain my books, which have just been sent up from my office in Newcastle. They are currently blocking the stairwell of our building because there is no room for them in our flat (which is full to bursting with my books already). Could anybody recommend a good bookseller who might be interested in purchasing a large collection of eighteenth-century literature, history, and criticism? I am completely serious. American revolutionary history and women’s writing a speciality. Anyway, I’m going to be offline for a few days while I sort through the contents of the boxes of doom. . .

48 thoughts on “September

  1. Ugh. I too have boxes of doom that contain the books and notebooks for an academic career. In fact, I spent part of Monday trying to get a grip on them. Faced with them a year ago, I opted to pay to store them for a year or so. I’m not sure that was so wise as all it did was postpone the ordeal of them. But, I needed a year of mourning over them too. I send my strongest (those boxes of academia are heavy!) energies your way along with a dose of the kind of courage it can take to face “what-has-been” while looking forward to “what-is” and “what-will-be”. Dog walks will always win out over faculty meetings and research over lecturing. Bon courage!

  2. I can’t recommend any booksellers (I have a longstanding dispute with the local seller most likely to take them over a few volumes from a large box of mine that went missing in the post and wound up on their shelves some months later), but there’s quite a strong interest in women’s writing here in Glasgow–even if the university budget is shot, I suspect you could probably find private individuals (lecturers, grad students) who would take a substantial quantity off your hands. The problem, of course, would be generating a list.

    1. I agree with this. The Andrew Hook Centre for American Studies and, depending on your collection, even the new Leverhulme-funded Centre for Burns Studies, might be good avenues. If you have anything on Anglo-Italian relationships or travel writers in Italy I might take some. Good luck!

  3. Oh wow, that *is* a rather massive chore. Good luck with downsizing that lot, sounds rather serious and possibly emotionally strenuous. But, you and I both have tons in common at this point … (do check out my walking blog?) … walks with Doggo and Knitting (and writing). Happy Trails to you Kate.

  4. Wow, you’ve just scared the s*** out of me – I’ve been gradually clearing out to make space for the OH’s books when they move from their current offices, large spaces doubling as seminar rooms, into tiny offices in a newly re-modelled building, and the books have to come home. It’s only just hit me how many there will be. If you hear of a terraced house in the northwest collapsing under the weight of the occupants books, it may just be us.
    Good luck with the sorting and take it easy – it strikes me as a considerable physcial and emotional undertaking.

  5. I can’t recommend a bookseller, I’m afraid, but I would urge you to donate the collection to a library – I know (and I say this as both recent PhD and library assistant here) St Andrews would be thrilled to have them.

    Ask the NLS if they can recommend anyone? See if anyone on Ravelry knows?

  6. Most booksellers will take commission… even supposing they could pay you up front, or find the space for so many books. If you can possibly arrange somewhere to store them (warm and dry) you would probably be better listing them on amazon uk… though I appreciate that would take a long time. Kristin’s comment made me laugh. It certainly doesn’t work that way up here – we have nowhere to put the books we’ve got (don’t mention the £57m new building please…) ;)

  7. Would you consider donating them to The Open University library? Theirs is rather small and could do with an input of 49 boxes. (They loan to their research students without charging for postage, which is great if you’re off-site.)

  8. Only probe with Amazon, I found, is they only take a certain amount from the buyer for the postage, and then it can cost a fortune to post off a hardback book. I love the idea of the donation to a library – which is my twopenny worth! Good luck with them.

  9. With my academic/teaching career similarly behind me for health reasons I have sold most of my books through Amazon. You do need somewhere to store them though as they can take a while to sell. I did contemplate donating them to a library but frankly, with no regular income any more, I needed the money from the sale … if nothing else it’s funded my knitting.
    Alternatively one of the specialist Hay on Wye booksellers might take them … but then you’d have to get them there. Good luck x

  10. Hi Kate,
    I wonder if you know of LibraryThing? ( ) It’s not only a great way of keeping track of the books you have and are keeping, but would be a ‘relatively’ easy way of listing everything you want to sell, ready to copy them onto whichever site you decide to use. I agree with others that donating would be wonderful ( as a librarian I would say that!!). But really there will be a lot of yarn funding tied up in those boxes – I think you should try the Amazon thing – or maybe E-bay? Most booksellers will not give anything like a reasonable price – especially if you have a lot together. If I was nearer I’d offer to help ‘catalogue’ them for you……although I’m not far south of Newcastle and would consider a weekend in Edinburgh if you do want help.

    Good luck with the sorting – I don’t envy you!

  11. What about G David in Cambridge (I know, bloody long way away). Alternatively, it might be work selling them on to PhD students via the Uni mailing list – time consuming, but that way they will go to people who couldn’t get them any other way. Online, maybe ABE books? They do a lot of academic stuff. I don’t massively recommend amazon as so few academic books are sold that way that they take a long time to shift because nobody looks for them. There is also the possibility of contacting Uni Libraries with a view to donation (our college library had several collections of books donated under a name – all the Medieval textbooks (my subject) in our library were donated by a former Master of the college whose speciality it was.) I know that is not financially rewarding, but it might be useful. Alternatively, there is that odd specialist book fair that runs tandem to the Book Festival in one of the basements in Charlotte Square – they sell antiquarian and academic texts, and if you could bear keeping them a year, you could perhaps shift them there? Hope some of that helps.

  12. Good for you. I did something like this over the summer (although on a smaller scale). I realized that there were books that were dated, classes that I would likely never teach, etc., and I just let them all go. I didn’t realize how many were there, how much space they were consuming, and much I was actually working *around* them. They are gone, and I feel so much better.

  13. I recently used this website. It is American and did require boxing the books and taking them to the post office, but they ship textbooks to places around the world and the website says that the free shipping applies internationally. If you feel like donating them, check this out:
    Good luck to you. I concur that you will feel much better once the books are sent to their next home.

  14. Having moved back home from Newcastle last week, I have been feeling very sorry for myself whilst going through the sheer amount of “stuff’ I have managed to accumulate over the years, that won’t fit in my already full-to-bursting bedroom. Your 49 boxes have given me a healthy dose of perspective! Good luck with the sorting; I hope that uncovering some forgotten gems, and the eventual joy of the end result, help get you through the more trying moments. x

  15. The capitalist in me suggests 1) sell first, but set a ‘reasonable time limit’ when they need to be sold by, and then 2) donate them.

    One step at a time, and try not to exhaust yourself. One dog, walks, and multiple cups of tea may help with the endurance needed for this task.

  16. There are many reasons for letting books leave your life…. I still think of books I gave away when I moved over here to Perth from London 30 years ago, they were my friends. I have no doubt however that there are people in this world who would go head over heels for your books. So take your time to make a decision, even if the boxes are blocking the space under the stairs and most importantly, make sure you go for lots of walks with Bruce!

  17. OH my, that’s a lot of books. I’ll be honest, if I had any money to pay shipping to the US or space on my bookshelves, I’d probably take them all. But my graduate student budget is slim and I believe I am going to be concentrating on renaissance studies. I am already amassing a good load of documents and the book accumulation can’t be far behind. Best of luck to you in getting through the boxes! Take breaks and rest, of course. I always find going through books is as emotional as it is physical…I remember crying the first time I sold some of my books when I was a kid.

  18. When I retired from 33 years of teaching I also had tons of boxes full of lesson plans and supporting material. I found it really difficult to part with them and even hauled them to our current house although I hadn’t taught for two years. I eventually gave them to young teachers, neighbours with children and I kept my favourite ones. Those faves somehow give me a funny sense of personal history. Thirty three years is a long time and you need something to show for it!

  19. Kate,

    My family can totally empathize. My dad, a philosopher, passed away almost a year ago. My mom had to clean out his office and figure out what to do with the approximately 2000 books and journals. I agree with the person about taking breaks. I agree that it would be good to work with a bookseller. We offered books to colleagues near and far, donated lots of books, sold some through Barnes & and to the local used book store.

    Good luck

  20. Lovely pictures of your Autumn landscapes. I love your eye for the small beauties. I too love to walk and take long walks on the beach here. This is the edge of the Bering Sea in Alaska and the small plants of the tundra are bright red and yellow. My favorite time as well, but alas! It’s too short!!

  21. You could also try Voltaire Rousseau in Glasgow, on Otago Street Lane – they’re very close to the university and often seem to receive huge quantities of items which presumably came straight from office clearances as well. Tho’ I’d have to third (?) the suggestion of Barter Books, which has one of the most incredible collections imaginable :)

  22. What a sad and potentially backbreaking task. Remember and take breaks! You might try McNaughton’s (Edinburgh), or Skoob or one of the other Bloomsbury booksellers that specialise in academic texts? And perhaps the Glasgow Womens’ Library might be interested in the womens writing? Just some random thoughts.
    Thank you for the luminous pictures, Autumn is my favourite time of year (nothing to do with my birthday being around now!)

  23. Dappled is right about the Abe books website if you want to go that way. People (and libraries) looping to purchase hard to find books will go there. I know our departmental library also uses alibris and I assume individuals do as well. Not sure if the sites are US based or not, nor do you necessarily want to go that route. At least there are options (and those sites are GREAT places to get price estimates).

  24. I love your writings, and the history of all the things you have educated us in. The things that you discovered along your journey, and that interested you. Your photography, and your way of bringing it all together in this Blog.

  25. I can relate to having a large collection of books, my tiny office has stacks of books, knitting, art, design, webdesign, yoga…And I teach Graphic Design classes (adjunct) at a local community college and I’ve collected quite a bit (many boxes) of materials and books for that also.
    Thanks for letting us know that you’ll be busy, so we won’t be worried. Although I will be worried that your working too hard or that you are stressed. Take it slow, enjoy the memories, someone will take the books. You will continue to move forward doing knitwear design, writing, blogging and making us (your readers) very happy.
    Good luck. Take care of yourself

  26. I am continuously amazed at how similar the flora is from Scotland to Portland, Oregon (blackberries, horse chestnuts, rhododendrons, many amounts of gymnosperms). Thank you for all your lovely photographs and knitting patterns, I am always pleasantly surprised by your blog. :0) Thanks!

  27. I love the autumn sun we are having at the moment, and the chance to wear scarves and hats again!
    I have nothing to offer in terms of practical suggestions about where or how to dispose of these, except some virtual sisterly and academic support. And you know, if you needed a hand sometime, I could probably manage an evening of cataloguing, shifting and lifting (and I do live in edinburgh so)

  28. oh Kate. That sounds very hard. All your lovely books, it has given me a pang just thinking about you getting rid of them. I hope you find a good home – I second the suggestion of the OU library as a donation if you don’t find a way of selling them. I spent much time hanging out in that library as teenager/student and it certainly could use more/better books. Otherwise I guess the women’s library in london might be interested or UEA for the american titles. (Although I imagine all universities aren’t buying that many books). 49 boxes – what a mission. I had many boxes of doom in my recent move (including boxes I labelled paperwork of doom) and am still working through them. Grimness. However how joyous that you won’t have any more hideous commutes (huzzah huzzah) and can spending time walking with Bruce and researching and writing about things you love. That is fantastic and no more smelly students ;) Big hug and hope you manage to have lots of tea and treats to get you through the MOUNTAIN of book boxes xxxx

  29. The only good thing about shared offices (as is the norm in French universities, when there are offices… I share mine with 5 people ; there are two desks – at other places I’ve worked there were no offices at all) is that you can’t accumulate as many books in them, which makes the clearing off easier. On the other hand, the books are already in my house.
    Sorting books is hard, especially when you’ve invested so much time and work in them. Let me add one suggestion to the many you’ve received : there are fora for librarians and academics on Ravelry where you might consider offering your books. It would probably work well if you had a page you could link to that worked as a catalogue stating not only the references but also the price + shipping you want – so you wouldn’t have to update too many separate posts. Of course, it still requires cataloguing them, which can be a daunting task if you haven’t done it before. I wish I could help personally.
    I hope it doesn’t keep you too much away from your research –  congratulations for such a positive opening. You are keeping the best parts of the job – I hope you get rid of those weighty boxes without too much trouble.

  30. I agree with those in favour of the Amazon approach. I have been selling my books on (the Dutch version of Amazon) because I’ll be moving to Argentina, and even with my humble book collection I made enough to buy a return ticket Amsterdam-Buenos Aires – go figure. My experience is that academic books sell much better than novels. The only trouble is it takes time time to sell them, but to me it was worth the wait. In the meantime I suggest you create window seats, stools and side tables with the contents of those 49 boxes :) You could even post a list on your blog and see if anyone’s interested. Good luck, whatever you decide to do with your books!

  31. Crikey! Maybe you could coerce a few art students into creating a piece from the books (in tact!). Perhaps a giant book monster? And whilst they’re doing that they could catalogue them
    all for you? That aside, what an astounding collection!
    I know of a place that might be interested, however it’s on Lewes, East Sussex. It’s called something like ‘The 15th century bookshop’ because it’s… Been a bookshop since the 15th century! Incredibly wonky looking place run by a chap called Ric who happens to be a mean chess player!

  32. I gave away nearly all my university books after I graduated – and it was hard. I did however keep those few books I loved. After a while I realized that getting rid of the books was a huge relief, the (before unnoticed) pressure of looking at them was gone. I still think that sometimes you have to actively close a door to have the opportunity (and inner strength) to open another.

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About Kate Davies

writer, designer and creator of Buachaille (100% Scottish wool)