Saimi Bergmann: If you love a book, set it free
When my son was in high school, I overheard his friend say, “Man, your family must really like books.”
He was standing in front of two floor-to-ceiling bookcases in our living room.
“Yeah,” my son replied, “and this isn’t even half of them.”
There’s a bookcase in every room of our house, from the three-shelf antique in the kitchen filled with cookbooks to the battered four-shelf unit in the family room stuffed with paperbacks. My husband collects biographies of famous newsmen. I collect Nancy Drews from the 1960s. We’ve got self-help, reference, humor, history and a smattering of fiction.
Hello, my name is Saimi, and I’m a bibliophile.
The only thing I enjoy more than a trip to the bookstore is a trip to the library, because there, my fix is free. Unless you count library fines. (Or as I like to call them, donations.)
And then I discovered an online site called Book Crossing, which espouses this simple premise: If you love a book, set it free.
Here’s how it works. You write a message (or use a preprinted sticker) inside a book, along with a tracking number, then “release it into the wild.”
That means you leave it on a park bench, in a restaurant, at a dentist’s office — anywhere it might find a new reader.
Hopefully, the person who picks it up will go online to www.bookcrossing.com, type in the tracking number and write a journal entry. Perhaps they’ll report they passed it on to a friend, or re-released it into the wild. This lets you track your book as it travels, perhaps to distant exotic lands. Or Pittsburgh.
Book Crossing’s mission to promote recycling and literacy by sharing books whispered to my conscience like Tiny Tim Cratchit. With the holidays of thankfulness and giving approaching, I knew it was time to set some of my books free.
I grabbed a bag and started shopping my shelves. How about this one? Hmm. Well, that’s one of my favorites. No not, that one. This one? Well, OK, but first I want to read it one more time. Maybe that one? No, might need it for reference. Four bookshelves later I looked in my bag and found ... one book.
By this point Tiny Tim’s whisper had become a shout (Miser! Scrooge!), so I marched into my living room and started yanking books and tossing them into the bag.
Scattering my books in the wild was much more fun. As I surreptitiously left books at coffee shops, campuses and doctor’s offices, I felt like a cross between James Bond and Secret Santa.
A couple times, my efforts to release were thwarted by kind strangers — “Oh, ma’am! You forgot your book!” The receptionist at my chiropractor’s office called me to tell me they were holding my book for me.
So far, no journal entries. But I find I don’t mind. The best part was the sharing. And now my bookshelves have a little breathing room. Of course, one trip to the bookstore will take care of that.
Saimi Bergmann writes for The Repository in Canton, Ohio. Contact her at email@example.com.