Reading is some weird kind of enigma in that it can be both solitary and communal depending on your focus. The big question for any bookworm is how to connect with others socially over something that was absorbed so singularly. The big question for any book blogger is how to achieve this same level of connection online.
I started this blog and my bookstagram account with that hurdle in mind; and a hurdle it has been. On my best days, I picture dozens of people reading and commenting on posts; instantly connecting me with folks who love books as much as I do. Friends in person are necessary; nothing beats a face to face shared-obsession or an intense argument. However, you’re limited by who you know, who lives in your area, and who reads the same books you do. The field gets narrower and narrower and before long, you have no one to talk to. I always have people to talk at, don’t get me wrong – but a back and forth is what every book person needs.
Greenlight has sadly not yet become the playground for booklovers I had hoped. It did not become the overnight and instant success that I dreamt it would be, because I am not the Jenny Lawson of my generation: famous blogger, book writer, and bookstore owner. Jenny Lawson is the Jenny Lawson of my generation. Though I’m sure even she didn’t blow up overnight. I’m still here, still writing though. I love my little outlet, but I think it’s time to try something a little out of the box. Not talking to friends in person, or strangers online; but perhaps something opposite: strangers in person turned into friends online?
Actually, that particular theme is not so out of the box; I think plenty of people have had some idea about giving a book to a stranger; leaving one on a bench somewhere. Most towns have a little free library where you can take a book or leave a book totally anonymously. I want one step of connection further though. Not just leaving a book, but also a way to communicate online after that initial random encounter. Pick up my book unwittingly -bam- get caught in my snare of obsessive character and plot analysis.
My first exposure to this idea was an article I read about a man who wanted to get rid of all his books and start his collection over from scratch. He left stacks of books in public; stacks as tall as a person or taller. Books left on a park bench or in the subway. For free and up for grabs; temporary art exhibitions. There was a bookmark inside each explaining that this was not only a form of fleeting art, but a way to share books with strangers. He hoped people would contact him and tell him where they found the book and if they’d read it.
As much as I love staring at my bookshelves, I constantly want to start over. I buy books on a whim, get books in the mail or for presents. Some books I will never ever read again and yet they sit on my shelf still. Some books I’ve had for over a decade and they’ve never been opened. Why have all this clutter? The answer is because it’s comforting to have pages of unopened and endless possibilities sit near at hand. So many escapes wait just an arm’s-length away. There’s a quote I read someplace that decorating your home just means having enough books and that’s how I have always operated.
Starting over sounds nice though. Buying with more intention, from indies or used bookstores. Only hardcover or only paperbacks or only special editions. Having a system – things that match. I just really want to be more thoughtful. That’s still a daydream; I’m caught on that idea, but it’s not fully flushed out yet. There’s no rush to massively give away every story I own. I’d like to start slowly though and start now. Begin and just leave one book at a time at one of my favorite coffee shops; with a sticky note on the front that says “please pick me up” in as pretty penmanship as I can manage. Quite the challenge; if you’ve ever been given a note from me in person, you know a lowercase ‘s’ of mine always looks like an ‘n’. I want to write a full note on the inside cover letting the hopefully excited stranger know that this book was left just for them to enjoy. I want to leave my Instagram handle, blog address, and personal email so they can get in touch should they read the book and feel compelled to talk about it.
This is the master plan. This is the big daydream. The way I will begin to declutter, but also leave my favorite stories all over the place and find them a new home and a new heart. I sincerely hope a connection can be made semi-in-person and semi-online with a stranger. It will be in a different time and place; sort of time travel between me leaving it and them picking it up. Both of us eventually reading and living the story. Sort of connection through the cosmos, right place right time, letting fate choose the stranger. Also this will turn into sort of a slide-into-my-DMs-with-your-book-talk kind of
booty booky call…
I want to actually start with poetry though. Sharing poetry has been my go-to since I started this blog and even well-before. It’s easy because it’s short. It’s a little intimidating, but can hit at just the right time. When it does, it is so worth it and there’s literally nothing better. To be comforted by stranger gifting you a book you didn’t expect in the form of poetry that speaks to your very core — THAT is what I’m hoping can come from this. I talked recently on Instagram about finding myself in a poetry rut. Not a rut of reading, really, though I had given poetry a break. Rather a rut of how to process my reading. I always have a poetry book going and I always have something interesting to do inside of it. That’s why pages are highlighted, marked with pen or sticky notes, and in rare occasions dog-eared or drawn on. Lately, I’d run out of things to do, so I went back to the basics. My most recent book just has little sticky flags on pages I loved. I’m reading another poetry collection now and just blocking out lines I like. Easy. Simple. These are the first two books I will leave in the wild and wait to see if they take root.
I will update a page here with the books I’m reading in order to give away, photos of books left alone, and maybe, hopefully a story of an amazing connection made through space and time and as always the pages.