“When you give someone a book, you don’t give him just paper, ink, and glue.
You give him the possibility of a whole new life.”
― Christopher Morley
About a week ago, Myra launched a Call for Book Donations and Book-Giving Stories for International Book Giving Day 2013. It wasn’t until a few days later when this give-a-book project finally sunk in my head. I racked my brain of ways to celebrate said International Book Giving Day. Then it hit me: I would be a Secret (Book) Santa for a day!
“If you have enough book space, I don’t want to talk to you.”
— Terry Pratchett
Lately, I’ve been sending boxes and boxes of books to my boyfriend in preparation for my big move to the east coast. (Yes, someday soon!) I have three huge bookcases with hundreds and hundreds of books so imagine how painful the entire process is! International Book Giving Day couldn’t be in a better timing!
“Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly.”
— Cornelia Funke
While it was tempting to drive to Book Off and purchase a basketful of books, I thought that the spirit of giving would make more sense if I give books from my own shelves. Yes, my own books to give away.
“Books are the perfect entertainment: no commercials, no batteries, hours of enjoyment for each dollar spent. What I wonder is why everybody doesn’t carry a book around for those inevitable dead spots in life.”
— Stephen King
The first set of books I chose were the ones I would least likely read: science fiction. I’m not really a big fan of the genre, although I enjoy a sci-fi story every now and again. When my boyfriend’s cousin refused to take the books (because he was downsizing his shelf, he said), I thought those books would go unread forever.
“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”
— Oscar Wilde
Then, this call for book donations came. All of a sudden, these books had a purpose. The Universe listened.
“Only bad books have good endings. If a book is any good, it’s ending is always bad – because you don’t want the book to end.”
— Pseudonymous Bosch
Slowly, as I looked for more books on my shelf to give away, I realized how this process sort of stung a bit. I gather, I hunt, I collect, I buy, and I keep books because I love them. I’m in love with books as other people are in love with, say, toy robots or cars. I rarely own duplicate copies, and they are there on my shelves simply because I love to read. To give them away is like to give away a part of me. Parting is indeed such sweet sorrow.
“A book, too, can be a star, a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.”
— Madeleine L’Engle
After gathering the books I would be giving away, I stared at them. Long and hard. That moment of silence was my way of saying goodbye to my precious books. (Yes, all are precious, even the ones I would least likely read. Books are books are books.)
“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”
— Philip Pullman
It wasn’t until I got in my car (my version of Santa’s sleigh) that I started thinking about the possibility of anyone taking my book. I didn’t have time to print out the lovely bookplates that Myra had included in her post so I just grabbed my sticky notes and scribbled a few words on them.
“Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.”
— Anna Quindlen
I hoped that whoever finds my books would look beyond the silly sticky note. I hoped that, instead, they would see the invitation for a new adventure in the form of folded book flaps, dog-eared pages, and sometimes creased book spines.
“So, please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, and in its place you can install, a lovely bookcase on the wall.”
— Roald Dahl
What initially started as a response to a global event ended up being an actual form of giving. I didn’t do this just because it’s International Giving Day or because I’m affiliated with Gathering Books and people around the world read our posts.
“We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel… is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become.”
— Ursula K. LeGuin
I did this because I want to share the joy I get from reading. There’s truth in the saying, “Shared joy is double joy. Shared sorrow is only half-sorrow.”
“I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book.”
— J.K. Rowling
I went to Starbucks in Chula Vista, ordered a caramel flan Frappuccino, and left Gregory Maguire’s Matchless on the Starbucks counter.
Barista: (as I was going out the door) Oh, you forgot your book!
Me: (wide smile) It’s free for taking. In celebration of International Book Giving Day.
Barista: (grabs the book on the counter) Oh thanks!!
“All the books we own, both read and unread, are the fullest expression of self we have at our disposal. … But with each passing year, and with each whimsical purchase, our libraries become more and more able to articulate who we are, whether we read the books or not.”
— Nick Hornby
I had to admit one thing, though. There was a feeling of awkwardness that comes with the act of leaving a book in a random place.
“No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.”
— C.S. Lewis
I was secretly laughing a few times at myself because I struggled with zipping my ‘secret stash’ open and rummaging inside for a book to leave. Who does that? Haha!
“There must be something in books, something we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.”
— Ray Bradbury
A couple of times, people looked at me like I was crazy. There was even a group of high school girls who giggled as I set a book on the cool, unoccupied bench. It probably seemed to them like I was getting rid of my schoolbooks.
“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”
— Haruki Murakami
Silly as it might have looked, I pressed on. I walked around the Otay Ranch Mall leaving books in random places, having high hopes that someone would take them home.
“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”
— John Green
For International Book Giving Day, I did not just leave books in a coffee shop, on a bench, by the fountain, on the table, and in the bathroom. I drove around and gave a books to friends I haven’t seen for months, as well as shipped a Valentine’s package to my boyfriend’s family and his (almost!) six-year-old nephew, Collin. (Collin’s mom said he loved Mo Willems’ We Are in a Book! and he had been carrying it around all night! Winning!)
“[D]on’t ever apologize to an author for buying something in paperback, or taking it out from a library (that’s what they’re there for. Use your library). Don’t apologize to this author for buying books second hand, or getting them from bookcrossing or borrowing a friend’s copy. What’s important to me is that people read the books and enjoy them, and that, at some point in there, the book was bought by someone. And that people who like things, tell other people. The most important thing is that people read… ”
— Neil Gaiman
Five locations visited and twenty books from my own shelves given away today. There is a sense of fulfillment that one gets when one gives back to the community.