A travelling book, brought to safety

A year and three quarters ago, I signed up with BookCrossing.com – a neat little site that tracks books.

Here’s how it works. You register your book. You drop your book off in a public place. You wait for someone to find it, log in and let you know it’s been found. It’s Where’s George with books.

It sounded pretty awesome. I went through my collection and grabbed all of my doubles – books that both Kerrie and I had brought together when we got married. Later, I went to the Augustana College library book sale and grabbed some of the best books I could find.

I printed stickers and placed them on the inside cover. I began “losing” books around town.

The next summer – 2006 – I set a box out at a garage sale. I wrote a sign explaining BookCrossing and invited people to take the books for free.

This summer, I took the books that were remaining – including some newer books I had picked up and not wanted to keep – and filed them on a bookshelf at Dunn Bros. here in town.

It had been 18 months, and no one had found a single one of my books. I knew this to be impossible – I saw people take them from my garage sale. I gave one to a co-worker! I knew my books were traveling; I just hadn’t had anyone actually log in and check.

And then, on a whim, I looked at the site this week.

A book had been found. A Stephen King book I received from a co-worker for the express purpose of throwing it out through BookCrossing. It was found at Dunn Bros. By an anonymous finder. On August 1st – the day Sierra was born. And they left a message.

“caught the book at Dunn Bros. Coffee Shop.Will release it at same place after my wife reads it.


Awesome. It finally worked.

Reading is the most rewarding pastime I engage in. I enjoy reading books and magazines and articles and other forms of the written word. I took my love of reading and sought out a dream of writing. And after parlaying several wrong turns into educational experiences, I found a form of calling – writing, for a paycheck, and loving nearly every minute of it.

But reading is more than just a solitary act. Nothing is greater than recommending a book – than finding a brilliant piece of fiction or a thought-provoking non-fiction tome and passing the word along. You wait with baited breath for that person’s response. You wait to see if the book you love was universally accepted, or if it was a quirky blip, a book that would always hold a place in your heart but never caught on with the mainstream.

Reading is about more than the solitary act of comprehending words. It’s about sharing those words – through book clubs, discussions, web sites. I do it through my monthly What I’ve Been Reading articles, and through the “What I’m Reading” listing on the sidebar to the right. I do it by talking about great books to the people I think would have similar interests. I try to use my favorite author’s styles, learning from their brilliance, always turning a clever Steinbeck sentence into a subtly created piece of advertising copy.

I hope to pass the gift of reading on to every one of my friends. To everyone I meet. To my family, to my wife, and in the future, to my daughter.

And now, through some weird six-degrees-of-separation-esque website, I’ve passed the gift of reading on to a complete stranger. Sure, it’s a book I’ve never read – probably will never read. But it was a gift, from a person who loves books, to a person who obviously felt the need to read, to pick up someone’s hard worked words and pour over each sentence. It was a gift from me to someone.

It feels pretty good, actually – to know that, in some very small, minuscule way, I helped someone read for the day. I just hope that people keep finding those books. I just hope that people keep reading.

This was lovingly handwritten on August 19th, 2007