About books donation
I had hundreds of books, the dead tree version, that is. When we moved from Silicon Valley to Shanghai, we gave out two third of the books we had, and brought with us the other third, those that I still use myself, especially those classics in computer science. And a bunch of sci-fi novels that I really love, essays, and humanity books. That’s a total of about 300 books. It did cost us quite an amount to ship them to Shanghai at the time.
After all these years, all kinds of junks are piling up at home, and space is scarce. We are doing some clean up recently, and after a long consideration, we have decided that it’s time to go with electronic books only from now on, and to donate all our dead-tree-version books to some institution, maybe a public library, or a college. Those are the books I really cherished, and a lot of them have changed my life, my view of the world, my value systems, and have made me a better person. I know it would be hard to part company with, I would miss the smell of paper books on the shelf, and would miss the pleasure of thumbing through one of them on a lazy afternoon, or the intense reading late into the night.
The three computer-related books that I still want to keep are Introduction to Algorithms, Applied Cryptography, and The Magic Garden Explained, as these books have a lot of my own study notes. Everything else would go.
I grew up in a war-torn country, and spending almost a decade of my life in a refugee camp. Books have always been a lust for me. I read anything I could get my hand on, and read them from the first word to the last. When there was nothing else to read, I would read whatever I had, again and again. It may be a piece torn from some newspaper, or an old magazine, or whatever that has some writings on it. I remember one day, I heard that someone had The Adventure of Tom Sawyer of Mark Twain. My eagerness to read the book drove me to talk to the owner, whom I didn’t know. He agreed to lend me the book for three days, on the condition that I helped him with some of his works. I spent two days helping with his works in the field, in exchange for three days of reading a Mark Twain. It was not even an original, it’s a book that had suffered from substantial alteration to target young children. Of course, I would only know that many many years later, when I had a chance to read the original version in Montreal.
As hard as it is, the decision to let go my books has to be made. As the Chinese saying goes, there is no undispersed banquet.
We started contacting a few colleges and public libraries, without much success. Curiously, they don’t, or don’t want to, accept books donation. Some said in my face that, if you want to donate, donate cash. Others said that they can’t accept books, as these books would need to pass some political examination before they can could be put into the library. The process would be too tedious to be worth it.
This was amazing, donating books had been much harder than we thought. We almost gave up on this matter. One day, we realized that we still have another friend that we had not contacted yet, and he is working at the admission office of the Shanghai Foreign Language Institute. We contacted him about our intention, and the answer was yes, they would be grateful for the donation, especially for good foreign language books. Ours are in English, French and Chinese. The next day, they came to pick up the twenty boxes. The trunk and back seat of the small car were piled up so high they could not see anything from the rear view mirror.
I am probably the happiest person in this ordeal, not only happy that I am now able to clear up some space at home, but definitely happy that the books I loved have found a good home. I hope that they will nourish some young mind in the future, as they had done for me.