Not even a year ago I gave Henri Nouwen’s Turn My Mourning Into Dancing to my friend, Sara. I had just finished the book on a plane ride to Baltimore and as Sara and I sat together catching up, it was overwhelmingly clear that I must leave it with her. A couple weeks ago I asked my friend Rachel to get the book back from Sara; she needed it next. Today I learned that Sara read it, gave it to a different friend (who I don’t even know), and after tracking the book down it is currently back en route to Rachel in Baltimore.
A Living Library.
It’s a dream I’ve had for a long time: I write a friend’s name (underneath mine) on the inside cover of a book and give it away with the stipulation that that person mark it up as if it were her own before giving it back to me or sharing it with someone else, adding a new name and date to the list. I hoped to get a book back, 10 years from now, soft and worn in, words underlined and highlighted in every possible color, dog-eared pages, and the front cover full – I mean full – of names.
I’ve given away lots of books. A few have made their way back to my bookshelves, many have not. But this is the first time that my vision of a living library is actually happening. A book living its own, unique story, moving and working its way into a shared, collective experience. A particular book, with a particular history, given to it by its readers. How cool is that?!?
So if I’ve ever given you a book, or I do so in the future, please pass it on. And let’s all give more books away. The good ones. The important ones. The ones that will teach us, inspire us, console us, and change us.