Posted on March 5, 2014
Recently, the Mister and I consolidated three of our large Ikea bookcases into one wall of beautiful Elfa and custom-made wooden shelves. To make sure that we’d have a little room to grow, (i.e. reads lots and lots more books) we purged about a third of our book collection, deciding to let go of about eighty books we had never finished, not liked very much, or even mildly enjoyed but didn’t feel strongly about.
Wanting to clear up our space as soon as possible, the Mister suggested putting them out on the corner in front of our building and letting passers by adopt them. He piled about twenty of the books into a cardboard box, scribbled, “FREE (to a good home)” on the box in marker, and hauled it down to the sidewalk. Intrigued, I found myself sitting quietly on the balcony, watching the people stop and sort through the books, and before I knew it, I was grabbing my camera and quietly photographing them. These photos were snapped over two sunny and unseasonably warm weekends.
At first I thought it would just be a little amusing to quietly photograph the bookworms who rifled through our box, but before long I felt a little like a scientist, observing behavior in the wild. I would watch people walk down the street and try to predict whether they would stop–most of the time I guessed wrong. Pairs and small groups stopped more often than solo walkers or large families. People were more likely to stop if someone were already there looking through the box—some of these people waiting patiently for their turn, while others aggressively pushed their way in to see what was available. Almost every single person was very thoughtful about their selection, usually reading the jacket summary and even a few pages before deciding to take a book. A friend who came over for brunch one day between book box weekends couldn’t resist a look through the pile and went home with two new-to-him books. It surprised me how quickly the books were snapped up. I was a amazed that the philosophy books were so popular, was charmed by the teenager who took a spare bible, and felt a little thrill when a woman went home with both of the over-sized human rights textbooks. In the end every single one was taken to a new home, which made me feel good about either our taste in books, or DC’s passion for reading.