The Little Free Library

IMG_2760My husband spotted the Little Free Library as we were driving home.

It’s on our street.

‘Oh my God!”

I made him stop the car.

I raced out to look at the books.

The Little Free Library looks like a birdhouse on a stick.  Some are fancier than others:  I’ve seen a two-story LFL that looks like a tiny house.  Open the glass door of the shelf and you can browse, borrow, or take a book, and then return it or donate more.  I have given books to another Little Free Library in my neighborhood.  I can’t say my books go like a house a-fire:  the copy of D. H. Lawrence’s The Rainbow is still there, but Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower has been checked out twice.

In 2009 Todd Bol in Hudson, Wisconsin, built the first Little Free Library:  a bookshelf that was designed to look like a one-room schoolhouse, with a sign that said “Free Book Exchange.”

It caught on.

People told him they wanted to build their own and wanted to share their books.

Today there are 12,000 Little Free Libraries not just in the U.S. but in Ukraine, Italy, Japan, Pakistan, Brazil.  And the three I’ve seen in town don’t appear on the map, so apparently aren’t registered. At Bol’s website, Little Free Library, you can buy kits.  Or you can build your own.

Is our neighborhood hip?  Is that why we have one?  Not necessarily.  But this is a nice aspect of community.

People long to be connected, according to the Slow Movement.  And not necessarily by internet.   Well, I can’t say I’ve met anyone at a Little Free Library.  I’m always the only one there!  But it is a lovely  idea. It would make a very nice feature story to bang on the door and interview the owners about why they’ve started this.

There are readers in our neighborhood:  I know because every book from Amazon is automatically delivered to me.  Twice I’ve ripped them open, not noticing the address label is wrong.  Then I saunter off with an apology to the person who ordered the book. (Once Bill Bryson’s The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid and another time a self-help book.)

IMG_2763The selection at the new LFL is not bad: Richard Russo’s Bridge of Sighs, Amy Tan’s Saving Fish from Drowning, Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower, Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone, and then the usual Mary Higgins Clark.

I borrowed Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s Travelers.  Actually, I have a copy , but I wanted to borrow something.  She is one of my favorite writers, and, alas, she died earlier this year.

“That looks like someone dropped it in the toilet,” my husband said.

“It’s just a couple of crinkled pages,” I said indignantly.  “The rest are fine.”

But it did put me off a bit.  I think I’ll just find my old copy of Travelers and read that instead…

Radical with a Notebook: Persuasion & The Free Little Library

She did not blame Lady Russell, she did not blame herself for being guided by her.”–Jane Austen’s Persuasion

I am the only person at the coffeehouse with a notebook.  Everyone else has a laptop.

I scribbled notes at a glass table filled with coffee beans.

persuasion-jane-austen-paperback-cover-artAlthough the Persuasion Book Club could be a full-time job–more articles have been written on Austen than I could read in a lifetime–I will not trivialize the experts by summarizing their theses.

No, I am dashing through Persuasion, loving every word of this classic, enthralled by Austen’s romance about an older heroine (the only romance Austen wrote, in my opinion).

Anne Elliot is only 28, not 40 or 50something, as I suspect many of us are. Austen never married.  Her heroines are under 30, or they’d never have a conjugal chance.

Few are as fascinated as I am by Austen’s middle-aged characters, from silly Miss Bates in Emma to Mrs. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice.  In Persuasion, Lady Russell, Anne’s late mother’s best friend, is a kind, devoted, thoughtful, if conservative, widow.   She does not marry Anne’s father, as everyone expects. Instead, she advises Anne on marriage.   Badly.

We are more liberal than Lady Russell.  Live with him, we might have said.  Men come and go:  husbands disappear in their 40s only to resurface after midlife crises, or, if we divorce them, we go on blind dates, walk out on men who make racist remarks, and indignantly trudge the three miles home in very uncomfortable shoes. Fortunately, a friend of our fix-us-up friend is so delighted by the story he asks us out…  and three months later we’re married!  (This stuff happens.)

THE OPENING OF THE LITTLE FREE LIBRARY is the big event in our neighborhood this week.

It is part of a literacy movement.  You can build or order a little house-on-a-stick from Little Free Library and plant it in your yard.

Little Free Library

Little Free Library

Fill it up with old books.  Then neighbors can open the hinged window to borrow a book, or exchange one of their own for a free library book.

Little Free Library

Little Free Library

I walk down this street almost every day.  “Have you seen the Little Free Library?” everyone wants to know.

Yes, yes.

The selection could be better.  There’s  Janet Evanovich, Michael Connolly, Edward Sawtelle, Stieg Larsson.  Enjoyable books, but the only one I approved was Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.  He said, and this is appropriate:

…the prettiest girls in the world live in Des Moines.

He also praised the pie and ice cream in Iowa.

I saw the travelling exhibit of Kerouac’s scroll (the typed pages taped together) of On the Road at the University of Iowa Art Museum.  The long glass case was endless; I peered too closely and accidentally touched the glass.  The guard came.  “Don’t touch the glass.”  Okay!

The beats pekarEverything you need to know about Kerouac can be found in Harvey Pekar’s The Beats:  A Graphic History.

We should all go on the road.

It is September.

It’s cooler.

Good road trips taken in the past:  Iowa City to Bloomington (many times),  Bloomington to Washington, D.C., (twice), D.C. to Buffalo, Buffalo to Toronto, Des Moines to Omaha, Lanesboro to Winona, Princeton to New York City.

Will I ever make it to Kansas City?

Can’t go, because I’ve been told I’d have to sit through a Kansas City Royals game.

I like baseball, but only at World Series parties.

Anyway, I’d prefer to ride my bicycle.

Too late in the season.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about a couple of books I’ve been reading.