Releasing Books Into the Wild

I buy books for a few reasons. Sometimes I want to read the books, and other times I want to share them with my bookish friends.

Occasionally I duplicate what's in my library, and those books are given to friends and the Lunchroom Lending Library at work.

Then there are the books I purchase because they sound too delicious to pass up and, frankly, someone needs to read them.

My friend Carole is a trouper, reading quite a few titles in the last category. She was unfortunate enough to read part of Plague Dogs, a book that was so gut-wrenching I not only asked her to stop reading it, but to return the book so I could recycle it. (That is the only book I have doomed to that fate, and I'm not sorry.) On the flip side, she read The Heroines, a novel in which an owner of a bed and breakfast encounters the heroines of English literature. I can't wait to read it!

With used bookstores and thrift stores in my path, I find many books that simply need to be shared. After a while, even Carole has to reign me in. So, what is a reader to do?

Read and Release at to BookCrossing.

I was told about BookCrossing by a fellow reader at last year's Fall for the Book Festival. BookCrossing takes book-sharing to a new level: readers give books individual codes when they share them so fellow readers with access to the Internet can chart the book's movement when they encounter them. Sure, it requires people to play along, but it costs nothing. (Okay, I purchased stickers for the books, but I could have done it for nothing.)

Here's the cool part: you put them in places where people will find them and take them home to read. (That's called "releasing them into the wild.") You also can give a book to a friend (a "controlled release").

I thought it was a lovely idea, in theory. Then I went to my local Potbelly Sandwich Shop without a book, and discovered the shop had a bookcase. I borrowed a book — and decided I needed to pay back the book deities who placed a book in my path when I needed it.

Last week, I took a handful of books, coded them and sprinkled them around the area. A few went to the gyms at the nearby university, others went to the library "free book" box, and even more wound up at the pool around the corner. I put one at the community center. I think David still has one for his gym.

I am excited.

Have you tried BookCrossing? Did you like it? Have you ever found a BookCrossing book? (I did once and left it in its natural habitat for a reader to find.) Tell me!