Donate Books

This page has information about donating books to be sent to adults in state and federal prisons. If you wish instead to donate books to children in immigration detention facilities, visit our 2,000 Libros page.

We appreciate your donation of books, stamps, postage money, and time.

Due to limited space, we restrict book donations to one (1) box at a time. If you have a larger quantity of our top-priority books (e.g., paperback dictionaries, how-to-draw books, or westerns) please contact us; we may be able to take them. We also reserve the right to give away or trade any books that might not be needed by the prisoners.

We need GOOD-CONDITION PAPERBACK BOOKS in either Spanish or English. (Many prisons reject hardback books, and all reject books that are water-damaged or stained.) Our list of Greatest Book Needs includes the books most often requested; however, we do accept donations in other categories or genres. Outdated resources, (e.g., computer manuals), are not needed. We no longer carry law books, although paperback legal dictionaries are welcome. 

Please consider bundling series of books, remove any personal information (including your name and address), and make sure you check books for photos, letters, or other personal items you might not want to share with prisoners.

Most book donors give us books from their personal collections. If you prefer to purchase books to donate, please check out our Politics and Prose wish list or Amazon wish list.

 

Greatest Book Needs - Nonfiction

Career & Personal Development

  • College-level dictionaries - our #1 request
  • Thesauruses
  • Starting a business, marketing, real estate, or personal finance (published AFTER 2009)
  • GED preparation
  • Trade or DIY books (especially modern home construction, home repair, welding, HVAC, woodworking, plumbing, truck driving, modern car mechanics, small motor repair)
  • ESL/ESOL
  • How to draw (especially introductory, portraits, and manga/cartooning/superheros). No nudes please - nude illustrations aren't accepted in most prisons.
  • Farming/agriculture (including beekeeping)
  • Game and puzzle books: role-playing games (e.g., Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder), chess, word search/Sudoku/crossword
  • Bodyweight exercise for men
  • Interpersonal communication
  • World atlases and recent (2015-current) almanacs
  • Daily planners for the year 2020 (must be free of spiral and metal binding)

History, Culture, Language

  • Memoirs/biographies of historic leaders, modern celebrities/musicians, or people who have experienced transgender transition
  • Introductory (Level 1 or 2 or "phrase book") language instruction and dictionaries for the following languages: Spanish, American Sign Language (ASL), Arabic, Japanese, Biblical Greek or Latin
  • History and culture, especially:
    • African American
    • Latin American (including Chicano studies)
    • Ancient, especially Mayan, Aztec, Roman, Greek, Celtic, Egyptian. Mythology is also desired.
    • Native American
  • Joke books (aimed at adults, but not too risque)
  • Spanish-language Christian books, preferably by authors like Desmond Tutu who write for a broad audience. (We lack the shelf space to store Spanish-language books that are written for the followers of specific denominations.)

Greatest Book Needs - Fiction

  • Westerns
  • Comic books (especially Marvel and DC Comics), manga, and graphic novels (please NO comics/graphic novels with nude or explicit illustrations)
  • Fantasy (including paranormal romance, Forgotten Realm, vampires, werewolves, contemporary/urban, medieval/epic)
  • Gay romance novels (most inmates are men)
  • Horror
  • Science fiction
  • Novels by David Baldacci, Dean Koontz, James Patterson, Lee Child, Stephen King, Patricia Cornwall, Harlan Corben, Stuart Woods, Vince Flynn, or Michael Connelly
  • Novels in Spanish, especially science fiction, fantasy, romance, westerns, mysteries, and other genres typically read for fun. (We have more than enough classic literature in Spanish.)

Books for Prison Book Clubs

As of June 21, 2019, we are seeking the following books to be sent to prison book clubs. This list will change frequently. If donating any of the titles below, please state that they are intended for the book clubs, not our general collection.

  • Snow
  • Plainsong
  • The Handmaid's Tale
  • The Sun Does Shine
  • Behind the Beautiful Forevers
  • I am One of You Forever
  • Sing Unburied Sing
  • Fahrenheit 451
  • A Good Country
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
  • Between the World and Me
  • The Lord of the Flies
  • The Underground Railroad
  • The Shack

1. Dropping off books:

- The best option is to drop off books during our packing time on Wednesday or Thursday evenings (5:00-8:30 PM) at Foundry United Methodist Church located at 1500 16th St NW, Washington DC, 20036. Details on how to get there are available in the "Where We Pack" section of our Volunteer page. Usually, a core volunteer is there Wednesday evenings and can arrange to have people carry the books for you while you stay with your car.

- If a Wednesday or Thursday evening is not possible, you can try to drop books off at another time. (Please call the church to confirm a good time - 202.332.4010).

2. Mail: Please do not mail books to us - BtP maintains a PO Box and we lack the resources to receive or transport mailed books.

  • Please mail books directly to a prison librarian instead.
  • For a list of prison librarians accepting books, contact btopdc(at)gmail.com with "Prison Library List" in the subject line.