> Books

We need your help! We get many requests for certain kinds of books that are rarely donated. Please take a look on your bookshelves (or go through those boxes in the basement). You may find books you don’t really want anymore, but which we could put to good use. Or buy one (or more) for us the next time you shop for books!

Please bookmark this page on your smart phone for easy reference.

Books should be in very good condition, as we aim to send the best quality possible to the women we serve. New or nearly new books are especially appreciated as some prisons require them. Books do not have to be new as long as they look new—that is, completely clean and unwarped pages, unbroken spine, clean page edges, no dogeared pages, etc. Advance reader copies (ARCs) are welcome!

We always need more of the following paperback books, especially those in blue. In general, we can only use books that are 10 years old or less. 

  • Urban books
  • Contemporary African-American romance
  • True crime
  • Transgender fiction and non-fiction
  • Bisexual fiction and non-fiction
  • Dictionaries—mainly English, but also English-Spanish and other languages, as well as Bible, Scrabble and crossword puzzle dictionaries
  • Crafts (especially origami, cardmaking and crochet)
  • Drawing
  • Calligraphy
  • Puzzle books, especially Sudoku, word searches, crosswords and fill-ins
  • Recovery and addiction (general and specific substances, practical guidance and memoirs)
  • Mental health, especially depression, anxiety and trauma/PTSD
  • Legal books appropriate to the typical needs of people in prison—”jailhouse lawyer” manuals, legal research, law dictionaries, etc.
  • Starting and running a business
  • Bible dictionaries
  • Study Bibles
  • Language learning—mainly Spanish, but many others too, including American Sign Language—beginners’ and self-study books are especially useful
  • Astrology
  • Children’s books (mothers like having them for visits and to give as gifts)
  • Coloring books for children and adults
  • AIDS/HIV and Hepatitis C (non-textbook medical less than five years old)
  • Books in Spanish—fiction and non-fiction
  • Books by and for prisoners and former prisoners
  • Prison life and prison issues
  • Reentry and life after prison
  • Parenting—especially in prison or from a distance
  • Abuse issues
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Exercise that doesn’t require equipment
  • Diet and nutrition
  • Cookbooks
  • Daily affirmations
  • Dream dictionaries
  • Wicca
  • Math (elementary school and above) and science (high school and above)
  • Trade skills (plumbing, HVAC, etc.)

We also accept lightweight composition books with bendable cardboard covers (no hard or plastic covers), no metal, spiral or string binding. Colorful covers are a plus. (These cannot be shipped by Media Mail.)

Other important information:

  • In general, we do not need fiction in English—primarily literary fiction, romances, mysteries and thrillers—or general self-help books in English unless they are in very good or better condition. This is because we receive a continuous supply throughout the year. But please feel free to check with us as you may have some wildly popular or hard-to-find or simply very special titles we could really use.
  • We can only send paperback books to prisons, but sometimes we accept hardcover books (along with miscellaneous printed matter such as sheet music and Tarot cards). We trade them for books we can use or sell them to raise money for postage—by far our biggest expense. Please email us with the titles and condition of the hardcover books you’d like to donate or send a photo/photos. (We cannot accept books with any highlighting or writing inside.) We will let you know soon if we can use your hardcover books.
  • We cannot use textbooks more than five years old, magazines with advertising,  DVDs, CDs, VHS tapes, cassettes and laminated sheets.
  • A tax-donation receipt is available upon request.
  • Our storage space is extremely limited. Please keep in mind that when books are donated that we can’t use, we must find somewhere to donate them in turn (or recycle them if they’re simply too old or in poor condition). If you’re not sure based on the information above whether we can use your books, please ask first.

You may drop off your books 2–5 p.m. any Sunday. We’re located at 4511 N. Hermitage Ave. (Hermitage and Sunnyside). We’re only two blocks from the Montrose Brown Line stop. There is also plenty of free street parking and a loading zone in front.

If you would like to mail books, please send by USPS at the Media Mail rate to:

Chicago Books to Women in Prison c/o RFUMC
4511 N. Hermitage Ave.
Chicago, IL 60640

Questions? Want to make a large donation—that is, more than a few boxes or bags? Need to make special arrangements for getting your books to us? Ask us anything at chicagobwp@gmail.com.

> Money

Our all-volunteer organization welcomes financial contributions of any amount. In addition to about $1,400 in postage each month, we also pay rent for the space where we store books and prepare them for mailing. We accept donations via PayPal—use the button on the right—or you may mail a check or money order to the address at the bottom of the page.

We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and our EIN is 45-5271700. All or part of your gift may be tax-deductible as a charitable contribution. Please check with your tax adviser.

> Office Supplies

We also welcome donations of postage stamps, brown paper grocery bags (for wrapping books), 9″ x 12″ non-padded manila envelopes without metal clasps (for sending blank journals) and 2″-wide clear packing tape. (These cannot be included in packages shipped by Media Mail.)


Donate quickly and easily

We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. All or part of your gift may be tax-deductible as a charitable contribution. Please check with your tax adviser.

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