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, postage stamps, 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 Outdated resources, (e.g., computer manuals), are not needed.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)
  • How to draw (especially introductory, portraits, and manga/cartooning/superheros). No nudes please - nude illustrations aren't accepted in most prisons.
  • Adult coloring books
  • 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)
  • Astronomy (introductory level)

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
    • Ancient history/culture and mythology - especially Mayan, Aztec, Roman, Greek, Egyptian, Nordic and Celtic
    • Native American
  • Joke books (aimed at adults, but not too risque)
  • Spanish-language books, including biography, history, self-help, Christian, and trade/DIY (e.g., plumbing, woodworking). Especially needed are books of broad interest that can be appreciated by adults who haven't had much formal education. Examples of suitable authors are Sarah Vowell and Desmond Tutu.

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 (including Star Wars and Star Trek)
  • 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 February 16, 2020, 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.

  • The Distance Between Us (Reyna Grande)
  • All the Way: My Life on Ice (Jordin Tootoo)
  • Brother (David Chariandy)
  • Artemis (Andy Weir)
  • Emotional Intelligence (Daniel Goleman)
  • Ready Player One (Ernest Cline)
  • Wonder (R.J. Palacio)
  • The Fight to Vote (Michael Waldman)
  • A Good Country (Laleh Khadivi)
  • I am One of You Forever (Fred Chappell)
  • All the Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr)
  • The Four Agreements (Don Miguel Ruiz)

1. Dropping off books:

Effective March 12, 2020, we are temporarily unable to receive books due to the coronavirus situation. The instructions below were written before the coronavirus pandemic, and we expect that they will return to being useful instructions in the future. For the moment, however, we ask that you hold onto the books you would like to donate to us, and bring them to us after we have reopened.

- 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).

Please do not leave books on the floor outside our room! Any books left there will be taken to a recycling bin by the church janitor. Always leave books with a human being.

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) with "Prison Library List" in the subject line.