Read a book, then leave it for someone else to find and enjoy
A NEW phenomenon for swapping books with strangers has arrived in Wales, and it is turning the unlikeliest of public places into lending libraries.
Nearly 2,000 people here have now tried the trend and are part of a million-strong network worldwide exchanging novels with readers they have never met.
The craze, known as book crossing, started in 2001. It developed from travellers leaving guides and reading books in hotels at the end of their trips so others could use them.
Now the concept has been extended by American businessman, Ron Hornbaker. People are leaving books in dental surgeries, banks and harbours so they can be picked up or “crossed” with others who have also chosen to give away books to unknown readers.
Whenever a novel is picked up or found in a public place, book crossers register it online – giving its details and where it was found. Once it has been read, the book is left somewhere new with a note saying “I’m a free book” for someone else to pick up and read.
Journals detailing books’ origins have revealed they have reached Wales via destinations such as Switzerland, and have gone on to reach readers in Australia.
James Shapland, managing director of Coffee#1 – the most active book crossing venue in Cardiff – said many customers at the coffee shop chain take part in book crossing.
Mr Shapland said, “It is very popular in our coffee chains, especially in neighbourly venues in parts of Newport and Monmouth. Cardiff is full of commuters, and books have cropped up in the strangest of places as a result.”
According to website bookcrossing.com, 190 book-crossing venues have been established in Wales, including Loggerheads country park in Denbighshire, the Main Arts centre in Bangor, Conwy harbour and the Dental Surgery in Porthmadog.
Other venues in the process of setting up book crossing include the Nos Da hostel in Cardiff’s Riverside.
Tim Prosser, chief executive of annual literary contest, the Dylan Thomas Prize, also said he will leave copies of the contest’s shortlist nominees in venues across Wales for book crossers.
And Scott Sorochak, CEO of the Book Crossing firm said “Book crossing is aimed at turning all sorts of places like park benches into book shelves, and we have found all sorts of people want to get involved and strike up friendships as result.”
He said that typically, book crossers are aged between 35 and 55, and would read an average of three books a month.
A full list of venues involved and books being swapped can be found at www.bookcrossing.com
What the authors think about crossing
Will book crossing put an end to book selling – the authors’ perspective
Aled Islwyn, from Heath, Cardiff, prolific Welsh writer and author of English-language short story collection, Out With It.
“We all have books we treasure and book crossing cannot replace that feeling, but there must be an excitement attached to this of not knowing what you might get or surrounding who will be getting what book,”
Gee Williams, literary writer and author of Blood etc.
“I have got to say I think it’s a good thing. Anything that raises the profile of books has got to be good.
“Lots of writers may have mixed feelings about it, but they won’t say that in public. It makes them seem a bit like scrooges.”
Jim Bowen, from Abercych, Pembrokeshire, author of About Kenya (released this May).
“For people on low incomes, buying books does not feature particularly highly on their list of priorities.
“It is a nice thing, to be able to pass your books on to others – I like to speak to people afterwards to find out what they think of the books I’ve given and whether or not they enjoyed them.”
The titles you are most likely to find
A Passage to India, by EM Forster~
A story of young English woman’s spiritual awakening in a different culture;
Mrs Biddlebox, by Linda Smith
A children’s book popular with adults, which documents the late author’s battle with cancer;
Little Jonny and the Naughty Boat People, by Christopher Milne
A children’s series about the adventures of Jonny. Some have described it as political satire, while others say the series is designed for adults, but is disguised as a set of books for pre-teens;
Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment and Reason, by Nancy Pearl
A compilation of hundreds of books its author thinks everyone should read;
Angel Fire East, by Terry Brooks
The third and final book in the trilogy Word/Void by Brooks, which tells the story of a man’s attempt to unlock a potentially world-altering form of magic;
Bill Bryson’s African Diary, by Bill Bryson
Released in 2002 by the best-selling travel writer, it documents Bryson’s trip to Kenya in the same year.