Decluttering: What to do with bad books?

During recent months of working towards the elusive goal of having less stuff, I’ve given away more than half our books. As educated and literate people with mild pack-rat tendencies, we have accumulated more books than necessary and I was excited to pare down our collection. I was surprised how easy this was, maybe because we have access to multiple libraries, online bookstores and our Kindle.

For the most part, the book-sorting process was very straightforward. Since I can donate to the library for a tax deduction I decided against gambling with used book sales online, and most of the books easily sorted between “keep” and “donate.”

Any book I questioned was put in an “undecided” sack. But then I came back and started thumbing through them and realized they promoted some disturbing themes. I’m not trying to go all Farenheit 411 bookburning here, I have no reason to keep them and I’m not comfortable donating if someone else might take these ideas seriously. So the lonely books sit on my closet floor and I haven’t decided what to do about it.

Out of this wacky collection, the most ludicrous volume is Music and Morals: Dispelling the Myth that Music is Amoral, by Kimberly Smith. I used this as part of a broad research base for my senior thesis in college and I distinctly remember sharing some great laughs with my advisor at the ridiculous material we found here.

The basic premise of this book is that hymns and western classical music written before 1820 inherently honor God while other styles do not. This hits close to home for me because I love the music she favors, but the author makes outrageous and illogical arguments to support her false belief. Arguing that Christians should only sing and listen to her “God-honoring” music, she claims newer music causes people to move sensually (a term she uses interchangeably with “immorally”), says jazz is the musical equivalent of a one-night-stand, and blames contemporary music for teenagers developing romantic intentions towards their peers at youth group. Most disturbingly, this book subtly promotes racist values by excluding the rich musical traditions of Asia, Africa, South America and any other cultures from her rigid definition of “moral” music. (I’m pretty sure if God made people all over the world, He’s glorified in music that comes from all over the world, too.)

I suppose my fear is not so much that one would take this book seriously, but that they might think Christians like me take this book seriously. It makes my whole religion look bad. I have a handful of books I won’t read again but don’t want to promote – so what do you think is the best solution here? Trash, burn, donate,  “accidentally” leave in garage so they are susceptible to water damage?

I might end up keeping this one around after all, just for laughs. After reading this next blurb, I must wonder what she would say about how often I sing Old McDonald with kids in music class:

Popular Music/Animal Music (1900+) Directed to the Undisciplined and Unrestrained Passions of Man

“…Some of the music and dances of this time had animal names, and America learned such dances as the Jitterbug, the Fox-trot, the Monkey, and the Funky Chicken. This parallels the theory that evolutionists believe humans to be nothing more than educated animals.”

6 thoughts on “Decluttering: What to do with bad books?

  1. I am in full support of book burning in this instance. But only if you already have a fire going. Don’t start one special.

    PS, if you figure this out, Nancy and I have a whole shelf full of these type of books.

    • My husband’s grandma mentioned their local university has a book recycling project, so we’re checking if ours has anything like that, too. I’m not sure why I have such reservations about destroying books like this!

  2. Pingback: reading round-up (11.15.13) | abby hummel

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