About this time last year, a co-worker and I were discussing Zadie Smith’s Swing Time after a company holiday book swap. I hadn’t read any Smith, but my co-worker was a huge fan, and I asked to borrow her copy of NW. She gave it to me —grudgingly; it was signed!—and I devoured it over Christmas. But what I found myself most impressed with when I first opened the book was the personalized bookplate my co-worker had on the first page. I told her I liked it when I returned the book, though I didn’t ask where it had come from. I assume she has them on all the books she owns. It’s a brilliant idea, to mark those books as part of your personal library, or to claim them as your own if you plan to send them out into the universe.
This was part of a long line of book swapping and a loose book club my co-workers and I have taken part in for the last few years. One of the perks of publishing is having friends who probably own the books you desperately want to read, and none of us ever hesitated to lone out galleys, hardcovers, or paperbacks (except for the small pause before I got my hands on that signed NW). It was either around that time or perhaps a bit after that my friend Aubrey and I also started swapping comics. We’ve been internet friends for a long time (a really long time) who first met in person at Boston Comic Con in 2015, and our respective comics libraries are impressive. Together, we’re unstoppable.
Since then, I’ve found myself jumping at the chance to loan out books and comics. Every time I clear out my shelves, I usually end up trying to sell some to a used thrift store or donating them to my local library, but I always mean to just post the pictures on the internet and let people have at it. I am more than willing to pay shipping costs, and I love packing up a book with a nice note and sending it out on its way. The way I see it, I love my books and comics, and I want them all around me at all times, but if I’m not planning to re-read them any time soon, they might as well be out in the world, seeing new lands and being loved by a new, worthy reader.
I like feeling connected to the people in my life, and sharing my library with them feels like the best way to do that. I love discussing books and comics and helping people find titles that will resonate with them, and if I can then send them those titles so they can see why I love them so much, all the better. Sharing my books lets me connect on a personal level, and follow-up that thoughtful conversation with a physical gift. I like that my life touches others’ lives, and that something I know well and loved much can now be out in the world.
This year, while starting my Christmas shopping, I Googled “best gifts for book lovers” and one of the top results was this BuzzFeed list from 2013. I was meant to be shopping for others, but when I saw that personalized embosser (#22), I knew I had to have it. (I wanted the goldfish bookends, too, but that would necessitate a goldfish.) Perhaps that act was a little selfish; perhaps it was treatin’ myself. Regardless, I can now leave my mark on my books, as my co-worker did, and I can pass them on knowing well that they will not forget where they came from.
Sharing is caring! Share your favorite book-sharing tips, tricks, ideas, and stories below.