Have you ever found a book in an airport seat? On a picnic table in the park? At a bench in a Panera. A Starbucks? On a window ledge in a restaurant?
Mostly, I like to put books in parks in unexpected places. On a bridge that overlooks the pond. Sitting on a sunny rock next to the water. I do this when the weather allows. They go fast.
An idea hit me back in September of last year. I was despairing over the fact that I'd read an article saying that the number of readers in our country was declining. The author of the piece decided to start a book exchange in front of her house. She built little colored bookshelves at the edge of her property and put in a few of her favorite books. Then she left a notice inviting others to take a book and, in return, leave one of theirs. Her idea was thriving.
I hatched a plan then and there. I went to Amazon and purchased ten of my favorite books and plays:
1) To Kill a Mockingbird
2) The Catcher in the Rye
3) The Hunger Games
4) Much Ado About Nothing
5) Animal Farm
6) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
8) On the Road
10) Romeo and Juliet
You can get books for pennies on Amazon. Once they arrived, I went on several hide and seek missions. I wanted people to feel as if they were finding something of value. I put the first book (To Kill a Mockingbird) in the crook of a tree by the Sunset Hills trail. The others I placed on various picnic tables throughout Towl Park and on rocks with good nooks by the pond. I had all ten books in the park within four days. They were usually gone the next day when I would check. The longest a book ever sat was for three days.
This made me inordinately happy. I was always careful to make sure that 1) the book was in good condition and 2) I left a short, handwritten note simply saying that this book needed a good home. I wanted the finder to feel good about getting the book, not guilty or bad. And I wanted the books to be clean and inviting to pick up.
As the months became colder, I moved my project indoors. I started ordering one book per week. So far, I've hidden several other books, too.
1) A Passage to India
2) Beany and the Beckoning Road
3) Ellen Foster
4) All the President's Men
5) The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
6) Tending to Virginia
7) Wide Sargasso Sea
8) The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted
9) The Handmaid's Tale
10) Durable Goods
11) Talk Before Sleep
12) Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant
13) An Accidental Tourist
14) Breathing Lessons
15) Survival Lessons
16) A Slipping Down Life
17) At Risk
18) Little House in the Big Woods
19) The Importance of Being Earnest
20) Rubyfruit Jungle
I LOVE it when a book is delivered to my door and I can make plans to hide it someplace in the open. I love the idea of a stranger holding the book in his or her hands and sighing with pleasure as they read something really spectacular. I see this as my gift, my reaching out to a world that is so swiftly moving in the wrong direction.
Books are little miracles. Ask anyone who is a reader if there is a book that opened their eyes to a new way of thinking or changed them. Most will say yes. This world needs some fresh eyes.
I sometimes feel like an Emily Dickinson poem.
"This is my letter to the world,
That never wrote to me...."