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Wed 2 Nov 2011 11:00 BBC Radio 4

Duration:
30 minutes
First broadcast:
Sunday 14 August 2011

It's something that most of us have to do, from time to time: get rid of old books. People moving house, someone whose partner has died, those simply needing more space in the kitchen find that their bookshelves just aren't big enough.

Sarah Cuddon examines the difficult decisions behind the seemingly mundane choices we make when deciding which books stay and which books go.

Amongst the people she talks to are Brian, who lives in Dorset. One shelf at a time, he wades through, weighing up a Delia Smith against a book about Spike Milligan. Does it stay on the shelf? Should it go in the box? Angel is contemplating a vast and varied collection of valuable volumes left after the death of her husband. Whilst Trevor in South East London peruses each title, skimming, pausing to reflect on his attachment to Boswell, Hunter S Thompson and James Lee Burke. They all stare at their shelves and start making painful decisions, based on their human relationship with individual books..

What will happen to them? Are they destined for ebay? A high end auction? Or to get rained-on in a sad-looking plastic bag outside a charity shop?

Sarah visits Britain's largest second hand bookshop. Every book has to justify its shelf space and Sarah discovers the fate of thousands of unwanted ones.

Arriving early, pavement bookseller Mike assesses the clutter and junked belongings at a car boot sale.

As the stories unfold, we learn that the reasons people hold on to them are as individual as the books.

Presenter: Sarah Cuddon

Producer: Tamsin Hughes
A Testbed production for BBC Radio 4.

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