Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty. — Anne Herbert
Passing by, you might have seen them in the neighborhood. On the front lawn, little houses made of wood: glassy door, bookshelf inside. Something about miniatures there is, drawing you in. Must be the fairy folk who build them.
The Little Free Library movement is barely five years old, and already there are thousands in fifty states and forty countries. Now there’s one in our front yard. Feel free to drop by and browse. Take a book, leave a book. No hurry.
Never for sale, always for free.
I’m smitten with Little Free Libraries because they’re beautiful.
Because they’re whimsical and free.
Because they provoke delight and gratitude.
Because they encourage sharing and community.
Literacy schmiteracy. I suppose there’s that too.
They make books cool.
You don’t have to build the library yourself, though many do. But a carpenter I am not. I ordered one from the Little Free Library people. The problem was mounting it. I asked my friend David, who built my son Nick’s treehouse, if he could help.
“What’s a Little Free Library?” he said.
While a few neighbors watched, we sank a 4×4 into a two-foot hole in the front yard. Ever dig a two-foot hole and compact the dirt back in? You should try it.
The Talmud obliges a person to do three things: raise a child, write a book, and put up a Little Free Library. Actually, the third thing is plant a tree, but it’s the same.
Nora and I selected some books from our over-stuffed shelves to set up shop. Next morning I couldn’t wait to see what had moved. Nothing. No business all that first day. No business the second day. Who has time for books? I thought.
The third morning, My Antonia was gone. So was the volume of Proust. War and Peace stood in its place. There was a note:
I have borrowed My Antonia and will return it next time. You have thrilled me to the core.
From this, I deduce a thing or two. Libraries, even little ones, run in real time. And real time is slow.
Alack, the author! The webby world being what it is, one might say there is an oversupply of words. The market for those words–the people who actually read–comprises, in the parlance, a relatively small base of demand. Into this vacuum rushes a witches brew of marketing remedy–social media, advert, search engines and what-not.
From this, I am not the only writer who gets indigestion.
Write your books with the idea that no one will ever read them. — Hugh Howey
Let the beauty we live be what we do, says Rumi. Make time real, says I. Let us market our books the same way we write them, as we want to live every day. Let us become librarians.
Two nights ago I set out a copy of Breathing for Two. It was gone this morning.
I’ll probably do it again.
A longer version of this essay is cross-posted on Just Add Father.