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.

The beginnings of a plan.

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 in the Wild


  1. Hi Caroline, thank you for reading and commenting on my short story, it is very much appreciated.

    I thought I would pop over and have a look at your own work, and instead of finding short fiction, I find instead what I think is an absolutely wonderful concept, the idea of leaving books where hopefully they will be found, and enjoyed by others, and hopefully then either left to be found again, or passed on to another so they can enjoy it too is such a lovely, thoughtful, and kind thing to do.

    I hope your Books In The Wild will bring much pleasure to many people in the future, and that some of them will find their way to your blog to say thank you. :)

    1. Thank you Steve. I hope so too. Looking forward to finding out what happens to the books. Think it could be exciting.

      Planning on doing a post on flash fiction soon. There's so much great stuff on the internet. I'd be interested in your views on the medium (if that's not too cheeky?)

  2. I thank you also for finding my blog and for commenting so enthusiastically on my flash. I love your idea for releasing books into the wide, wild world. It feels very democratic. Good luck with it. Justin. Aka, flyingscribbler.

  3. I think this sounds like a wonderful idea. Perhaps left with a bookmark that says something like, "If you are interested in this book, please enjoy it free of charge. When you are done, and if you enjoyed it, pass it on to someone else by leaving in a public place." And the website's address could be on it as well. I don't know if anyone will type all the info into the website, but I'm sure they'll share the book if they enjoy it. :)

  4. I hope they will, and I hope sooner or later someone will appear back here to catch us up on its journey. I think the book mark idea is a good one and have designed one (in my head) already. I rejected the idea initially in favour of an info sheet inside the front cover but I think that both are actually needed. Thank you for your feedback.

  5. Hi there Caroline -- what a fantastic idea: all message in a bottle and good reads at the same time. A great starting point to pass on what's more of an experience than typed words, talk about books and stories and what they mean, while making and gifting a unique story AS the process. I do hope folks will report back more and more.

    Oh, and you could add a table to the inside fly sheet where folk can add a name or nickname, a date, and a tweet-sized comment about what they thought (and perhaps encouragement to actually Tweet with a custom hash tag -- a small way to get them started). Reading visitor books in a B&B are always interesting; or getting that feel of a checked out library book. It'd probably add to the value of passing it on -- if you see others have already done so -- and get people more involved.

    Oh, and maybe a sticker on the outside (or even your fantastic paper tag on its string) -- so at a glance you can see there is something a little different about this lost book; something that gets them to look inside rather than ignore it. I almost suspect that in the UK, most folks would leave it be, in case someone comes back for it or they 'cause a fuss'.

    Oh, oh, and you could, as a variation, leave a book in a place and later tell folks on this site where you left it so someone can go deliberately find... read... comment... (or get someone they know to do so) and then report back on what they thought and where they've left it for others to find. Perhaps in the same place for some of the books, or a different place for others.

    You could also encourage other folk to do the same, with their own books, under the banner of the site (print their own stickers from a sticker site, for example, and supply a PDF to print for the fly sheet) so that you start to increase the odds of successful book journeys.

    That way, too, keen folks can get involved rather than wait vicariously -- and it'd be awesome to see if your book got read :)

    And... I'll shut up now. Lol.


  6. Oh, and I see you've already done a few of those things... (cough) I'll go read the rest of the site. Lol. St.

    1. Hi Stephen. Thank you for the comments. Your second one did make me laugh! I think your idea of a custom hash tag is a really good one, as well as the space on the info sheet for a comment and where it was left. At the moment there is only space for the date of leaving. I'll redesign to incorporate that, then, even if people don't come back to the site, at least there is a record of the journey in the book.

      I also love the idea of other people leaving books. I could easily email the sticker and info sheet (or work out how to make them downloadable from the blog ... hmmm). I'd also like to include some guest posts where other people release a book and write a post about why they chose it etc. What do you think?

    2. Hey there Caroline -- I made me laugh, too. :)

      Yes, I was thinking you might want to empower lots of folks to do things in parallel, allow them to be proactive (as well as reading the neat things that are happening), create more content for everyone, and allow folks to get involved right now, either sticking their own books out there, or finding those of others.

      You'd probably want to encourage people to use the site as the hub for the whole thing -- so while other people could leave books, the finders comments etc. would come back to the community here (though you could also link to posts on individual sites).

      Those involved could download their 'Books in the Wild Kit', you could allow them to guest post (or perhaps comment on a master post that can, in itself, be commented on by others) which says what they're hoping for, where they've left the book, what they liked about it themselves, etc. and then their post acts as a point of contact for the finders/readers who find their book(s) and come back and comment.

      Ease for participants in getting stickers sorted, etc. would probably be quite important, so links to places to get blank stickers for printing, tips on how to put together you book, B&W stickers for folks without colour printers, etc. would probably be cool. Maybe there's an on-line site that would print and post out small volumes of stickers on demand (and might be happy to do so, if everyone gets their stickers from the same place).

      Just make sure finders and leavers can easily match on the site. You might need to uniquely name books, if some folks choose the same one, so the particular book can be found. E.g. Anna and Alexei could be a couple of copies of Anna Karenina. :)

      At some point, you could investigate some Wordpress plugins (if that's what you're using) that support 'group working' more as a magazine, so the community can moderate itself, but that's probably something for later.

      I would say, just do what feels right for you (I have a great capacity to over think things -- can you tell? Lol) but I do think you're doing a genuinely interesting thing.

      Other than that, thanks for the follow on Networked Blogs. Much appreciated.

      Go Books in the Wild!


    3. Keep over thinking. It's great. Hadn't thought of black and white stickers and I love the idea of empowering people! I guess for the moment if anyone wants to release a book they could email a post, which I then publish, or I can temporarily give them admin privileges(is that what people do? Seems a bit scary). I was also thinking, for single stickers, it'd probably work just printing on normal paper and sticking it on. I'll work on a 'Books in the Wild Kit' page - I'm assuming I'll be able to create downloadable images and templates? All been a steep learning curve on building a blog - enjoying it but very time consuming.
      Thank you for your enthusiasm and good ideas Stephen.
      Keep on thinking,

    4. Hey there Caroline --


      I wouldn't give folks admin privileges -- for the reasons you imagine. There are some plugins that support group working, but you can investigate those at your leisure. Start simple [as I must always remind myself], so getting folks to e-mail the post could work fine. You can always refine as you go.

      Printing on normal paper would definitely work. Again, a good start. Images and templates can be created as normal. To make download links, you just need to get the files into a folder on your site and then create standard HTML links to them. Folks can either click the link, or right click and 'save as'.

      Blogging takes acres of time -- I know exactly what you mean -- but I get the feeling I wouldn't be writing nearly as much as I am if it weren't around.

      Let me know how you get on -- I'll happily Guinea pig a book release.


  7. Hi Stephen,

    Thanks for all the advice. It's greatly appreciated. And I'd love you to Guinea pig a book release. Books In The Wild now has its own email - - expressly for the purpose of releasing books!

    Thank you