Recycle books as gifts this year

What to give your friends and family this year? Why, books, of course. Best of all, recycle books as gifts, because in today’s world waste is…undesirable.

Here’s a time-honoured way to recycle books as gifts.

Buy a new or secondhand book that you want to read. Then read it, but…

  • Do not spill coffee, tea, pasta, soup or red wine on the book
  • Do not drop it in the bath or leave it in the sun
  • Do not turn down corners or scribble in the margins.

Then, when you’ve finished reading it, wrap it in pre-used paper and give it to somebody else.

I know you know this trick. I know you have used it for years. But now, instead of feeling guilty for being mean, give yourself a pat on the back for cutting down on waste. Be proud when you recycle books as gifts.

Screenshot of The top verse of 2020 in NZ Listener, including How To Be Old
The 10 best poetry books of 2020 (NZ Listener)

How To Be Old has been listed as one of the 10 best poetry books of the year 2020 by the New Zealand Listener. The Cuba Press publishers and I are flabbergasted at the way this book is selling!

Seems that people are buying the book by the handful for gifts. Various people have told me me they’ve bought two, five, seven, even nine copies. Then the poems get shared and shared again. Maybe because we’re all bumbling along towards old age and it’s good to have some company along the way. Anyway, I’m recycling this idea to you, now that the holiday season is almost upon us.

How to buy a book in New Zealand

In New Zealand, buy How To Be Old (and other books!) from a book store, obviously: that’s easy. We love our fabulous independent book stores and they are thriving in 2020. You can order online from many book stores, for example Unity Books.

Photo of Unity Books shopfront with passersby reflected in the windows
Unity Books in Wellington: one of many stores that also sell online

How to import a New Zealand book

But outside New Zealand, especially in this global pandemic, there are logistical and economic barriers such as taxes and shipping costs. Consequently, importing a New Zealand book can become disproportionately expensive. A small book can cost you USD45 instead of the original USD17.50.

So for the benefit of readers in the US, UK, Australia and other countries I’m making How To Be Old available from this very website: buy it online through PayPal.

The price for you is stated in New Zealand dollars (NZD25) which amounts to about USD$17.6, today. Shipping is free. (I can do this because I’m not a bookstore, with all their overheads.)

A taste of How To Be Old

I could be arcane, I could be smart
I could crochet the strings of your heart
I could be subtle, I could be wise
sprinkle my lines with splendid lies
but now that I'm staring at my own demise
I don't have time. So here's the deal.
I'll stop talking to myself
and talk to you. 

When you recycle books as gifts, you get multiple benefits: choosing a book, reading a book, giving a book, and cutting down on the monumental waste that happens around Christmas and New Year.

23 thoughts on “Recycle books as gifts this year

  1. Sadje says:

    Wonderful idea Rachel.

  2. A couple of people in my book group use our independent bookshop newsletter as wrapping paper. Wouldn’t that be a great way to wrap book gifts!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:


  3. simplywendi says:

    every Christmas Eve my family swaps books that we wish to share with others from our own book shelves…… has been a fun tradition.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Such a good plan and even easy ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. simplywendi says:

        yes, it is easy and fun!

  4. Great ideas and so glad your book is doing so well.๐Ÿ˜บ

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Thanks Peter. I am having a moment here.

  5. Cathy Cade says:

    The books I don’t want to keep usually go to our U3A swap-shop table, but we haven’t had a meeting since February, so right now I have a pile of magazines and books waiting to go. Sadly, that’s also where I sell most of my books, but who knows when we’ll be meeting again in the UK? ๐Ÿ™
    At least, since most of us are of a certain age, we’ll be in the early sweeps for that vaccine.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      That makes good sense. It will all happen again.

  6. *p.m. six says:

    I love this idea for my hardcovers. I also keep notes so I like to give them to my sister and best friend encouraging them to add their own interpretations.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Wow, what a great idea.

      1. *p.m. six says:


  7. I am lucky enough to have visited New Zealand, all the way from South Africa. That being said, there are lots of South Africans living in NZ. The thing I loved most about NZ is all the book stores. They were everywhere, at the ferry wharfs and in the small towns and villages. It was marvelous. I found some books I hadn’t been able to find anywhere in the UK or SA.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Thatโ€™s so good to know. And new book stores have been springing up this year: amazing,

  8. anne leueen says:

    What a great idea!

  9. alison41 says:

    Congratulations on the good sales of How to be Old! If our postal system wasn’t broken – the pandemic dealt it an almost fatal blow – I’d buy a copy, but whether it would ever reach me is debatable.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      That is very worrying.

  10. Elizabeth says:

    I will stop feeling guilty when I send a book I have read as a gift. Now I can feel virtuous. Thanks because I much prefer feeling virtuous to feeling guilty!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Hooray! That’s what I hoped would happen.

      1. Elizabeth says:

        It worked.

  11. Joared says:

    I usually purchase used books in Very Good or Like New Condition, find it very hard to part with them once I’ve read them. Am gradually donating them to my local Friends of the Library group who sell them for a dollar or two to raise money though the pandemic has altered that activity. Recently bagged a half dozen and gave them to a nurse on her last visit to me who said she liked to read. Should I give some away each day forward there will still be some left after I’ve departed this earth I expect. and I’ll likely be around for some years to come — and then there are all my professional volumes, oh well! Congrats on the success of your book. Will consider it for the future.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      You’ve found yet another way to spread joy.

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