“A book is not only a friend, it makes friends for you. When you have possessed a book with mind and spirit, you are enriched. But when you pass it on you are enriched threefold.”
~ Henry Miller
The Books In My Life (1969)
I love bookshelves. I love books of course, but I love to see books displayed. Lately I have been searching online for library books or ebooks, so I miss strolling through bookstores and walking past all those possibilities. I enjoy looking over bookshelves in people's homes, looking for new authors and insights. I even love seeing what complete strangers are reading at the coffee shop or bus stop, letting random novels catch my eye out in the wild.
I don't have any shelves these days. Downsizing has forced them into boxes, tucked away from sight. As part of the effort to carry around and maintain less stuff, I only hang onto books that I really enjoyed, and can imagine reading again or loaning out. I used to sell books back to places like Half Price Books or Third Place Books up in Seattle. They never offered much money, but the books went back out into circulation, and I received a little store credit for more books at a discount. I haven't found (or looked) for similar places down here, so the few books I had were starting to pile up.
I have started using a site called Book Crossing. It is a book sharing, tracking, networking sort of world library. From their website:
Label. Share. Follow. Breathe new life into books instead of letting your old favorites collect dust - pass them along to another reader. Our online archival and tracking system allows members to connect with other readers, journal and review literature and trade and follow their books as lives are changed through “reading and releasing”.
You register each book you would like to "set free" and assign it an identification number. In that way, the book's travels can be traced as it makes its way around the city, state, country and maybe the world. You can buy labels or print up your own to let the next person know about the project. The site was started back in 2001, and it is similar to the way people have been tracking dollar bills at Where's George. But books, like the ideas and stories they contain, were meant to be shared, and their travels are usually much less random than bills changing hands.
You can exchange books with the nearly one million members on the site, but more often books are set free in the wild - left at a bus stop, coffee shop, doctor's office, or wherever you imagine another reader might pick it up. They ask that you do not leave them where there might be a security concern (airports), or where it would be inconsiderate, like in or outside a bookstore. Along with the tracking label on the inside cover, I have been clipping a note to the front cover letting people know that the book was not forgotten, but that it is looking for a new home.
I was watching an episode of Charlie and Lola the other day (well, it was on for Annabelle, and I was watching her). The episode was about something that many of us did as kids. They released balloons with notes attached, not knowing where they would land, hoping that someone would find them and send back a note to let them know how far it had travelled. Releasing these books is sort of the same thing, but with the gift of a new read, instead of just a deflated balloon.
When I released my own balloon in grade school, I never heard back. I have only released four books so far, so it is a little early to tell what the results will be, but I hope to hear back about their travels.