Leaving Books in Public Places

I love books. So naturally, I used to collect them. I kept all the books I had ever read, I bought dozens of books that I still wanted to read and I even bought antique books which I would never read but which looked good. My house was like a library.

And then I began to move to a different country every year. Books are a bloody hard thing to move, especially hundreds and thousands of them. So, I had to leave them behind. I sold some of them, I gave some of them away as gifts and may of my books remained behind in heavy cardboard boxes.

Now, because I know that I will move to another country, possible even another continent, in a year’s time again, I don’t have this obsession with ownership anymore. I take out more books from libraries. (And return them again.) And even for the books which I buy, I know there is no point in keeping them because they won’t fit into my bag when I move to Italy, Israel or India next year.

Now whenever I finish reading a book while on a train, in a park or in church, I leave it behind and hope that somebody will find it, pick it up and read it. If you have found a book on a bus in Malta, a train in Morocco, a boat in Venice or in a bar in Texas in the last few years, chances are that it was one of mine. I hope you enjoyed it.

When leaving books in public places, I have the romantic imagination of somebody finding it whose life will be touched, or even changed, by the book. A poor child who will discover her love for literature. Somebody who will fall in love with a hitherto unknown writer. Someone who hasn’t travelled but will read about foreign countries for the first time. – I am aware that the book is probably more likely to end up in the trash, but still each time I leave a book behind, I wonder who will read it next.

Another romantic thing which you can’t do with your e-book.

About Andreas Moser

Travelling the world and writing about it. I have degrees in law and philosophy, but I'd much rather be a journalist, a spy or a hobo.
This entry was posted in Books, Photography, Travel and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Leaving Books in Public Places

  1. Tania B says:

    I share this ‘leave a read book behind’ attitude. I also enjoy giving them to the local library, charity shops and bazaar places. I feel that since I have given in to the pleasure of a real book (versus e-book), I should do my utmost to recycle both the material and the pleasure. I confess that I do still keep a substantial amount of those books I know I will go back to over and over :)

  2. A great idea for you, with your more generalised interests. Unfortunately, I can’t see a mass of people all trying to get access to my copies of “Armored Vehicles of the 20th Century” and “Warplanes of the Third Reich”. ;)

  3. Amy says:

    I love these kind of random things! I’ve done this a couple of times mostly because I carried them on my holiday and couldn’t be bothered carried them all the way home again once I finished… I also wrote messages on the front page… :)

  4. Very thoughtful of you! If you want to be sure the book will not end up in trash, maybe do like in the UK, leave a postit saying “Help yourself”))

  5. Def, leave a message on the first page…

  6. Greg says:

    This is a thing that is dying in u.s , most book stores are closing and everybody is going to e-books . I think much will be lost , we need books so we know ourselves imagine if the Romans had put everything on a iPad what records would we have of it now? My first book I read on my own was The amityville horror at 12, I couldnt sleep for months I gave the book to my son later he told me he never read it and that he had seen the movie so he threw it away , I too had watched the movie and it was nothing like when I had read the book! In my mind it was much better than the movie , while the movie are getting better in the visual aspect it stop us from using are minds and creating our world ! If they stop making books they killing our world and our minds.
    That is how I see it and I have read many book since my first book and understand the importance of them but I think it is getting lost, While kids think they are smarter than us and we verse our parent here a few thing everybody knew that we don’t now!
    Could you hunt and kill a animal and know how to preserve the meat to last a winter?
    Could you make your own shirt with out buying it or a sewing machine ?
    Could you gather the ingredient to make flour and make a loaf of bread?
    Could you make a peice of steel or any metal?
    Knowledge is power and books are knowledge!

  7. Zio Alberto says:

    Finally a romantic thought Andreas.

    Not always this politics and philosophic bla bla bla.

    Very good!

  8. cafecasey says:

    I love this thought, and this blog. Glad you linked to it. I’ve been trying to get rid of stuff for years, and finally, did just that. I imagine that someone else needs it more. Books are tough, because I often cycle through them and use them for work, but the things I can get at a library, the non-specialty ones, getting easier to share along. I’ve had one major move and a giant flood in 2010. Those things also helped me see the value of freeing myself from the last extra layer of stuff. Nice post.

  9. Wow!! Very powerful. I love books, collect them, and MOVE because we are military, and yes, it’s HARD to move with all these awesome books. I love the idea of giving them away, but they feel like they are a part of me.

    • I know it’s not easy to let go of books. I also used to have a huge library and now, thanks to moving a least once every year, I have only about 40 books at home.
      But wherever you move, you can always get new books to build up another library quickly.
      If you have a lot of good books, maybe a local library would be interested in them when you move? This way you do something for the public good.
      I have also found some used book stores which exchange books. You take your used books there and pick other used books, maybe 1 “new” one for 3 or 4 of your old ones (because the store has to cover the expenses and turn a little profit). This way you reduce the amount of books you have to move, but you get new reading material.

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