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How to set up a community book swap

Spoiler: just do it!

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! -- When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.” ― Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

I must confess something to you.

I am a book hoarder, a hoarder of books if you will. You know those moments when you look through your wardrobe at the vast array of things you, “might need” for that made up occasion you know deep down will never happen, but still you just can’t let them go? That’s me, but with books. I keep them just in case I ever get round to re-reading them. I try to keep them in as pristine condition as possible (no dog ears if it can be helped) but now I wonder why I am doing this at all. In my heart I know that more than half of these novels will never be picked up again. This is not necessarily because I didn’t enjoy them (very rarely do I not enjoy a book) but because there are just so many other books to read. New bestsellers breaking ground every week or a lesser known yet brilliant story ready to be unearthed...the world holds a treasure trove of endless books just waiting to be reveled in, questioned and devoured. Consider me the Indiana Jones of reading if you will, but this treasure hunter will never be satisfied and will continue the hunt for books evermore.

That said, I do not have personal library at my disposal just yet (the goal is to replicate the library from Beauty and the Beast in my future home). As such, I have come to the somewhat painful conclusion that the most logical next step is to relinquish my beloved book collection. That is, swap each one for another. To keep books circulating is a wonderful thing, and prevents them from collecting dust on your bookshelves or being used as coasters for your cups of tea and coffee. Struck with inspiration, I decided to do a little experiment. I found a cardboard box, carefully placed a selection of books inside and wrote a little sign to say,

“Book Swap! Please feel free to take a book and leave any old books you would like to pass on.”

I took said box and meandered downstairs to my building’s reception area and placed it tentatively on the floor before scurrying away lest neighbours with prying eyes were spying in judgement. I must remain anonymous.

Days passed and I became somewhat jittery at the prospect that someone would simply take the box and run off. Or worse! That nothing would happen at all. I checked up on the box everyday. Indeed one of my worst fears (the latter) seemed to be coming true.

But then one day, I saw a different book had found its way into the box and another had gone missing. A silent cheer of triumph resounded in my head and I returned to my flat with glowing optimism. This seemed to set off a domino effect and after a week I found to my delight a whole new collection of books in the box (of which I heartily helped myself to). Then, to my surprise, after just 2 and a half weeks of having this shape shifting box, I found it had gone missing. Sadness gripped me but as I looked around the corner there the box lay next to the front door, resting on a shoe rack with even more books lined up neatly on the bottom shelf. The book swap had grown and just like that a mini library of sorts had been born. I was elated, and thought what wonderful neighbours I have. During this strange time of isolation it meant so much more to see everyone uniting through the simple act of swapping a book, bringing us all closer together.

Spurred on by this activity I found myself wanting to do something more (book related of course). So, I popped to the shops, bought a selection of durable envelopes and rifled through my book collection for a second time. Having chosen a few I placed one book in each envelope with a little handwritten note. I printed several different addresses on each of friends that I knew were fellow bibliophiles, and sent them out the next day with fingers crossed, hoping that they would enjoy their new reading companions. A small act, but one that I hoped would bring a smile to their faces.

The power of books is undeniable. It can transfix, transport and teach. Bound in even the smallest of novels can reside a story with a lesson of so much substance, it feels as though you are carrying the whole world in your hands. But this weight is not a burden; it is a comfort. Some of the most compelling stories can indeed be found in children’s books, holding intricacies and complexities you may have missed on your first reading when you yourself were a child. Saying this I leave you with a quote from one of my favourite books from when I was a young girl and a reminder that sharing your favourite book can make this world seem just that little bit smaller and make someone just that little bit happier:

“So Matilda’s strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.”

- Matilda, Roald Dahl

Source: https://www.quentinblake.com/gallery/matilda

Read on my fellow book lovers and bye for now,


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