Books In The Wild

Books In The Wild
1. to share and explore books with those we know and those we haven't yet met.
2. to explore the journey a book takes us on.
3. to release books in to the wild.

12 October 2012

The Wrong Boy by Willy Russell

Post to come ...
I left The Wrong Boy in a safe pair of hands in brilliant sunshine. But, within half an hour of leaving it the heavens opened and England's default weather position took hold. Given the theme of the book it seems sad, if not apt, if it wasn't claimed before the deluge. I'm hoping that, even if it was caught in the rain, some kind soul will rescue it, dry it out and give it a second chance.

Willy Russell's, The Wrong Boy, was left by Books in the Wild with the statue of Winston Churchill, Bond Street, London.
A safe pair of hands.


A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian by Marina Lewycka


I read this book back in the summer, and it is only now, several months later, that I have released it into the wild. I think the reason for the delay is that it is marketed as a comedy - a humorous look at the repercussions when an elderly father decides to remarry.

It is a funny book, but it is funny in the manner if many great comedians who place the reality of life starkly in front of us .....

Post in progress - please forgive the ramblings.

11 October 2012

The Time Traveller's Wife part 2

Recently I was lucky enough to obtain another copy of The Time Traveler's Wife and thought it would be a good idea to release it into the wild. However, in my rush to do so I forgot to enter the date and its place if release...
... so, if you found the book, it was released on the 11th October 2012, near Queen Square, London. If you could write it in for me that would be great!
Thank you. Happy reading.

10 August 2012

Books In The Wild. What? You too?

It appears that the idea of books being released into the wild is one that has caught many people's imaginations. A quick google surprised me with how many hits come up for terms such as 'books in the wild' or 'releasing books'. There are sites with photographs of books being read in public, books being read in unusual places, photos of lost books and sites which, similar to this one, 'release' books and then track them. Bang goes my smug pleasure in how original I am! I don't know why I hadn't googled this before, particularly before releasing the first of my books. Rookie mistake. Guess I was too caught up in getting the books out there - into the wild..

I am curious about this personification of books, and that the idea of setting them free is so widespread. On Twitter there are regular comments from authors about 'releasing their books into the world'. I can understand this in regard to authors. Books are their creations. They have caused sleepness nights, headaches, frustrations and joy. They are a product of blood, sweat and tears, and the relationship with the book changes as the process of publication and release for public consumption occurs. I believe many authors feel, once published and loosed on the world, the book doesn't belong to them any more. It seems that the readers then pick up the reins and books develop a life of their own as they are read, discussed and shared.

These 'books in the wild' sites show that the love of the physical book is still very much alive and kicking, not usurped by electronic formats. Whilst we read a good book we are engaged and challenged on many different levels. This mental and emotional attachment becomes personal and we become temporary custodians of something that hopefully has the power to affect us in a myriad of ways. Maybe this is why books, inanimate objects after all, are given animateness and there are so many blogs devoted to the secret lives of books?

Now, back to worrying about whether I should change the name of this blog or not. 'Books in the Wild'? 'Books on the Loose'? 'Off the Shelf'? Hmm...

29 July 2012

The Other Boleyn Girl - Philippa Gregory

Several years ago at a Grand Designs exhibition I was given a goody bag. Assuming it to be loaded with advertising bumph I was ridiculously excited to find a copy of 'The Other Boleyn Girl' amidst the recycling. Not having read any historical fiction I was looking forward to reading it but lent it to a friend to take on holiday. I never saw that copy again but hopefully someone came across it, enjoyed it and passed it on.

Recently I acquired another copy. And this time I did get it back when I lent it to someone. The machinations of the Tudor court and the palpable air of paranoid claustrophobia that infects many of the scenes was absorbing. Dramatic license has been taken to create a compelling story based around historical facts, motivations ascribed to push the story along, and gaps filled in by maybes and what ifs, causing some questions about its historic accuracy. But it is a novel after all, not a history book and Philippa Gregory creates a world rich in gilded assignations, entrapment and entitlement, where days are passed with poetry and games and girls are commodities to be traded for land and prestige. A world where, despite knowing Anne's destiny, you will it to be different.

Reading the book left me with a desire to research the Tudors. I've satisfied the initial urge looking up the main protagonists on wiki but plan to read some of the source material used for the book. It made me aware how limited my historical knowledge is. Several times during reading 'The Other Boleyn Girl' I had to ask my youngest daughter to recite the rhyme about Henry VIII's wives to place various people (sad, I know). For some reason it won't lodge in my brain and I tie myself in knots with it. I thinks it's because, by my befuddled reasoning, I always think Henry had 8 wives.

I hope the book was found. It was left in St Catherine's Chapel, Abbotsbury, Dorset, a beautiful 14th century building on a high hilltop overlooking the fleet and its flock of swans.

I hope people feel free to comment on this book whether the left copy was found or not.

'The Other Boleyn Girl' was the fourth release by 'Books in the Wild'.

27 July 2012

Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro

'Never Let Me Go', a quiet unassuming story, tackles issues of ethics and morality in a way that leaches into your brain and gently gnaws away. I read it recently for a book club where opinions were greatly divided, some thinking it could have been written on the back of a stamp, others fascinated by the world it portrayed. I fell into the fascinated camp, caught up in how this turn of events could become a normal part of life, accepted and unchallenged by the population at large. There are no big bangs or fast paced action but several weeks after reading it I'm still mulling it over in my mind and the questions it raises over what it means to be human.

The story develops with a slow drip feed of revelations, the ground gently prepared for shocking facts so that they become absorbed into normality. This is the way it is. This is how it will always be. Everything is fine. It is a world of acceptance, of making the best of what you have, not railing against what you haven't. Simple things are unbearably precious and possessions are few. There is tenderness, love and carefully reined in hope, but little questioning or rebellion as the characters grow up and discover their place in the world.

The world of 'Never Let Me Go' appears bare of the communication technology so prevalent today. The world Ishiguro portrays is ours, but ours which has taken a slightly different course. It follows the advancement of different technology, where the science of Dolly the sheep is exploited to the nth degree, rather than limited to acres of beefburger meat in a lab. As I read the book, I wondered if the acceptance of their destiny would have been so complete if communication technology had infiltrated this world. Would it have provided a rallying point or pricked the consciousness of mankind? Or would it have been the same - atrocities occur, are normalised and ignored. People accept their lot and carry on as best they can, focussing on what is immediately important.

The story is an ancient one that has tracked throughout our history. That of segregation and the perceived right of some to treat others as lesser beings, as commodities. The fact that the humanity of the Hailsham students is doubted by 'normal' people is chilling. Who are the more humane? Those who do their 'duty' with dignity, or those that look in revulsion at their very means of survival and deny them a soul?

Only after finishing the book did the true horror hit home. The placid narration of the memoir lulls you into a false acceptance, and the holes in Kathy's knowledge allow things to go unchallenged by the reader. It is only after having read it that my brain started filling in the gaps and started worrying at what had been left unsaid, raising far more questions than it answered. To paraphrase Albert Einstein, it became appallingly obvious that technology had exceeded humanity.

Tell me what you thought of the book. I'd be really interested to know.

'Never Let Me Go' was the fifth release for 'Books in the Wild'.

26 July 2012

No Time For Goodbye - Linwood Barclay

Every year for Christmas Santa fills my stocking with a pile of books. They're often ones with a Book Club sticker and aren't always ones I'd choose for myself but who's going to argue with Santa? This book, 'No Time For Goodbye', came from such a haul. It's a private eye thriller that slips into a Sam Spade tone, or at least my version based on a childhood memory of Humphrey Bogart in 'The Maltese Falcon'.

I enjoyed the book. It was a fast read and kept me entertained. One slight niggle, I felt too much was given away by the italicised narrative told by an anonymous, shadowy figure. For me it gave too much away, unravelling the story and dispelling tension before the main characters got a chance to work things out. Through this extra narrative I always felt I was one step ahead of Terry and his search for the truth, a place I'm not sure I wanted to be. I'm really looking forward to hearing what other people thought of the device, and whether it added or removed the thrill of the thriller.

I'm also looking forward to hearing from people as I have no idea if anyone picked it up. I managed to walk away after leaving it on a table at Weymouth Sealife Centre. Getting brave.

Please feel free to comment on this book. It doesn't have to be a 'wild' copy you've read. 

'No Time for Goodbye' is the third release of 'Books in the Wild'.

24 July 2012

The Girls - Lori Lansens

'The Girls', the book I found on the train, inspired me to start Books In The Wild (The beginnings of a plan) so it seemed fitting that it was one of the first books to leave. Surprisingly though, I seem to have taken on an Alfred Hitchcock type role when releasing the books. He often played a cameo in his films and I'm doing the same, unable to put a book down and walk away. I loiter and keep wandering back to check, heart sinking each time it's still there, and leaping when finally it's gone.

Finding 'The Girls' was a wonderful unexpected gift. I hope whoever found it on Charmouth Beach will feel the same, and that many more people will get to appreciate it in the future, coming back here to share their comments.

23 July 2012

The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

It's been harder than I thought to actually leave a book somewhere to be found. I've worried that it won't get picked up and will end up abandoned or chucked in a bin. So I've prevaricated and procrastinated whilst a voice has been shouting at me 'Just Do It!' So I have.

The first books to leave, to release into the wild, proved a problematic decision. The action of leaving them has become almost symbolic and so the books needed to be the right ones. In the end I realized I was over thinking it. The first books to release were 'The Girls' and 'The Time Traveler's Wife' (see The beginnings of a plan). The book that inspired the idea of 'Books in the Wild' and the book that struck such a chord that I greedily kept it rather than immediately sharing it.

I confess to being cowardly in my choice of location to leave the books, rather like allowing your children to walk home alone but trailing them a short distance behind, just to be on the safe side. I left the book somewhere a friendly eye could watch over it. Somewhere it could be kept safe if no one adopted it.

The bakery tends to be a busy gathering point, particularly on a sunny day. People sit outside luxuriating in the sun, enjoying coffee and croissants. Even on a wet day it's full of life despite it's tiny size, with people buying baguettes and doughnuts and staying for a chat to ward off the blues. It seemed a safe place to leave the first book.

Audrey Niffenegger is a visual artist and that comes through when you read 'The Time Traveler's Wife'. I could see, hear and feel the events as if the story had got in to my very being. It sung to me on so many levels. I'm a sucker for a love story, I'd just had a baby, I was an artist who made and worked with paper and I couldn't work out how the story would resolve itself. I sat at at the end of my bed, intending to grab a 5 minute read before starting the day. The baby lay next to me and my daughter played at my feet and I was riveted, unable to move until I'd finished the book. I could feel Clare's emotions so clearly that I knew they'd affect me all day if I didn't let the story play out. And as much as I was desperate for the story to unwrap itself, the closer I got to the end of the book the sadder I felt that it would soon be finished.

I've discussed the book with several people since. My eldest daughter had a similar highly emotional reaction and, like me and a close friend, can't bring herself to watch the film. Other people hated it, or couldn't get into it and several left it unfinished. These extreme reactions to the book intrigue me and it is one of the reasons I 'released' it into the wild. I'm hoping that the book will be passed on, or left to be found, many, many times and that the new readers will come here and share their comments, good, bad or indifferent.

By George She's Done It! Books in the Wild!

After much putting off of the inevitable I've done it. There are now books in the wild - out there, waiting to be found. I feel ridiculously nervous, as if I've just let my child walk home by themself for the first time. And if I feel like this about leaving a book to be found, I can only begin to imagine how authors must feel sending off manuscripts or waiting for first reviews. My heartfelt admiration goes out to all writers releasing their creations to scrutiny.

22 July 2012

Brave Enough for Books in the Wild?

Summer seems to finally come to the South Coast of England, and rather than the normal grey skies and pounding rain we have bright blue and sunshine. My husband has just brought me a cup of tea and I am surrounded by the aroma of baking banana bread. An auspicious start to the day and one I will seize upon.

I've been procrastinating about actually releasing any books in the wild. I've blamed the weather, the need for stickers, the weather again, hoovering needing doing, oh that weather... anything. Instead I've set up a twitter account and designed stickers, and constantly worried about which book to set free. All things that make me feel productive but were really stopping me concentrating on the main reason for this blog - leaving books to be found. So enough! Today I will take the plunge. Maybe.

©Books in the Wild

19 July 2012

Take Me, I'm Yours.

I've been giving some thought about how to encourage people to pick up the books that will be left by 'Books in the Wild'. Chances are people will assume that the book has been forgotten, and that somebody will come back for it. I would have been reluctant to pick up the book that prompted this blog, 'The Girls', by Lori Lansens, (see The beginnings of a plan.) if it had been in a cafe or on a bench. 'The Girls' was on a train that had reached is final destination. The passengers had disembarked, and it had been cleared of the detritus travellers spread in their wake. Squashed between the chair and fold up table, the cleaning team had missed it, and the book was waiting to be discovered when I boarded the train at Victoria Station, London. Had it not been so clearly lost I would never have picked it up.

A dramatic, flamboyant part of me wants to tie the books up with big bows before laying them out on a bench, or suspending them from a tree or gate post. In my minds eye it would be wonderful to come across such an offering, a beautiful surprise waiting to be discovered, unwrapped and explored.

'The Girls' wrapped and ready to go. 
© Books in the Wild 
Realistically it's probably a bit much to expect subsequent people to re-swathe books in ribbons before placing them to be found. I want to make it as easy as possible for people to continue returning the books to the wild so, sadly, I must let the idea go for the time being. But the problem remains that the book needs to grab people's attention. The message needs to be clear that it is a book for the taking, rather than one waiting for its owner to claim it. The information sheet inside the cover of the book is no good if no one ever gets as far as picking it up and opening it.

I'm going to give a sticker a go. The tag line will be 'Take Me, I'm Yours'. If I can get the book picked up then that's half the battle and there's a chance that the book will be read and commented on here at 'Books in the Wild'. Here's hoping!

The-books-in-the-wild-sticker-will be-put-on-each-book-to-be-released-so-that-people-know-they-can-take-them.
The sticker aimed at encouraging people to take the books
 which have been released in to the wild.

14 July 2012

A Reader's Early Days - Blyton Rock

Thinking about creating 'Books in the Wild' has made me recall the books which pulled me into reading as a child; the characters that got into my head and the stories that whispered and called to me, drawing me back into their pages to explore their worlds. From early on I found that books had the power to absorb me completely and transport me directly to the events on the page. I would become deaf and blind to everything around me and would have to be shouted at several times before the present penetrated my subconscious and I'd return to the real world. Many, many books had this power but one author particularly dominates my earliest memories of being an independent reader. Enid Blyton's stories where toys came alive, pixies lived in the back garden and trees could transport you to far away lands held me in thrall. Her adventures where children outwitted criminal gangs and lived lives where adults were only peripherals thrilled me. As a child I had no awareness of any of the issues that surrounded Blyton's writing. I was only aware of the stories she spun and and how they introduced me to reading.

My mum tells me I started off with Noddy; books she couldn't bear and coped with constantly having to re-read them by making me read all the parts in speech marks. This had the bonus of meaning I could read them for myself before too long. I don't really remember the Noddy days, but I do remember my love affair with Blyton's Adventure stories and my need to get each hardback copy from the library and race through its exciting pages. In my head there was always a fifth child exploring valleys of butterflies or guarding eagles along with Jack, Philip, Dinah, Lucy-Anne and Kiki. Just thinking of The Castle of Adventure whisks me back to primary school, rough carpet scratchy against bare legs as we sat cross-legged, listening to the teacher unfurl magic around us. I remember my utter absorption in the tales and belief that such adventures were just around the corner, complete with biscuit munching and lashings of ginger beer.

© Books in the Wild (prev The Book Blog)

Family holidays in Dorset meant that the image of Corfe Castle, stark against a blue, summery sky, become entangled with my memories of the Adventure books. We'd walk around the narrow streets, cagoules clammy over our summer tops, and buy packages of liver sausage from a tiny butcher's shop to picnic on amidst the ruins. I do the same now with my children, but they refuse to wear cagoules or eat liver sausage.

The sky's not as blue as in my childhood, but Corfe Castle still calls to be explored
© Books in the Wild
 As a young teenager, on a Geography field trip to the Isle of Purbeck, we were let loose in the woods with compasses, maps and vague instructions to find check points. Unsurprisingly we got lost. After what memory has turned into hours, we discovered a clearing dominated by an ominous line of nodding donkey oil pumps, each one rhythmically bending towards the earth and up again, slightly out of sync with each other. Having spooked ourselves silly wandering through the woods we were now convinced we'd unearthed some kind of illicit operation. Oil wells? England? What the ...?  Obviously we had to scarper quick or some guy in a stetson brandishing a firearm (we'd all watched too much Dallas) would hound us off the land, or drag us to a mine shaft because we'd seen too much. After much stumbling through undergrowth and listening for the sound of pursuing feet, or worse, dogs, we found a road. The castle visible in the distance, we made our way to Corfe where we were reunited with our fellow explorers, all of whom had managed to read the maps and get checked off at the orienteering points. Somewhere there is a picture of us sitting on Queen Victoria's jubilee monument, set in the middle of the main road through the village, eating ice creams.

Aspiring adventurers waiting for a train at Swanage Railway near Corfe Castle.
© Books in the Wild
The Mallory Towers and St. Claire's books tend to blur into one, my prevailing memories being tuck boxes, midnight feasts, and complete confusion as to what a lacrosse stick looked like, or what lacrosse was. However, I am eternally grateful to another Blyton hero for teaching me all the tricks an investigative adventurer may need. Fatty from the Five Find-Outers taught me how to get out of a locked room with a piece of wire and a newspaper, assuming the baddies had left the key in the lock on the other side. My sister obliged by locked me in my room so I could practise with an old wire coat hanger. It was total satisfaction when the key thunked onto the newspaper and could be carefully pulled under the door. Fortunately we had floorboards at the time. I'd probably still be locked in my room to this day if we'd had shag pile carpets. Thanks also to Fatty I'm pretty certain that if ever I was kidnapped and driven away blindfold, I'd be able to retrace the journey for the Police. It's a useful skill, honed on evenings travelling, eyes tightly shut, back from mum and dad's friends who lived 20 minutes away over the Downs. I also always check the state of people's finger nails just in case they are in disguise and have forgotten that minor, but all important, detail of whether nails should be clean or dirty - another useful Five Find-Outer tip.

The key and paper trick.
© Books in the Wild

Something also inspired by Fatty and that other jolly group, The Famous Five, was sneaking out of the house at midnight. On a few occasions I forced myself to stay awake, excitedly reading under the covers whilst time blinked away on my digital Seiko watch. Faking sleep and forcing deep, slow breathing, praying fluttering eyelashes didn't give me away when my parents came to check on us. Happily I was always thwarted from an adventure by my dad putting out the cat, or my mum sitting up in bed reading in her cream quilted dressing gown. Somehow our house was never deeply asleep at midnight like it was meant to be. I'm not sure what my plan was anyway. I would have been too scared to actually leave the house and wouldn't have made it into the garden, let alone venture beyond. Probably just raiding the cupboard for dad's chocolate buttons would have been enough but, then again, all the best adventures had at least one midnight feast.

I would be really interested to know which books and authors turned other people into readers.

© Books in the Wild

10 July 2012

The beginnings of a plan - books in the wild.

The idea came from a train journey. Getting on a train at Victoria I found a paperback trapped between the fold-up table and the chair in front. It was 'The Girls' by Lori Lansens. The rest of the journey passed with the unfolding of the memories of Ruby and Rose and their life in Ontario. I was very grateful to that unknown person who left the book on the train, and have wanted to say thank you and tell them that the book has since been read and appreciated by many other people. It has always saddened me that they wouldn't know this, and it is from here that the germ of an idea for a blog grew.

The-idea-for-books-in-the-wild-came-after-finding-a-book-on-a-train-so-it-felt-apt-to-use-a-photo-of train tracks,-both-as-a-reference-to-that-and-also-a-reference-to-the-journey-a-book-can-take-us-on.-Image-by-Marconobre-at-Stock-Free-Images.
© Marconobre | Stock Free Images

The finding of 'The Girls' on the train was a happy accident that gave me hours of pleasure and allowed me to return the favour by passing the book on to others. But I began to wonder about deliberately recreating that accident. Books could be left in places they were likely to be picked up and read; on trains, in waiting rooms or on park benches, in cafes or donating them to charity shops. By creating a blog the book's journey and the reactions it elicited could be documented. I have a vision of releasing books into the wild and then seeing where they take us and what they will show us.

The call of the wild ©Books in the Wild

I'd like the blog to be interactive so that people can share their thoughts, and it would be intriguing to find out where books end up and how they got there. I hate to think of books being stuck in boxes or, worse still, ending up at the dump. Someone once told me that old copies of Mills and Boon were pulped and used in the construction of motorways, bringing to mind mob hits or prehistoric civilisations buried by progress. Whether this is true or an urban myth I don't know, but it saddens me to think of books not being read.

Hardcore road construction © Books in the Wild

I know that there are one or two books that I'd find difficult to involve in this process. Books that claimed a total emotional investment from me. 'The Time Traveler's Wife' by Audrey Niffenegger is one. When I read it I had two young children, one a baby and one toddling. I'm not sure if it would have had the same impact if I'd read it at a different time in my life, but it hit me forcibly in the solar plexus and kept a visceral hold until long after I finished it. I found that I could not pass the book on to anyone else. Instead I kept it on the bookshelf next to my bed, greedily wanting to keep hold of it and hang on tightly to Henry and Clare's love story.

© Books in the Wild
Even now, years after reading it, I cannot watch the film. A recording of it lurks on the hard drive of our PVR but I can't bring myself to press play. I can't see how the layers of the story could be translated into film without losing its passion and tenderness, and it becoming creepy. I have never re-read the story. I haven't wanted to lose that initial impact that reading it for the first time had. However, writing this has made me want to read it again so I'll be interested in seeing my reaction second time around.

The logistics of placing books out in the wild and hoping they'll be read rather than ignored or thrown away is weighing on my mind. I think I'm probably making the problem bigger than it is and the answer is to just do it and see. The process is going to be a slow one. Assuming someone finds the book straight away and decides to read it, it will still take days, weeks or even months before they are at a point to share their experience. It is a leap of faith to assume that any of the books will be read, commented on, or returned to circulation but I'm going to give it a go. Watch this space...

In the meantime, I would love to hear other people's views on books and find out which stories have made the greatest impact and stayed with you. Please feel free to add comments.

© Books InThe Wild