A friend of mine once got in touch to ask me to take part in a book exchange. It would start with one person who would pass on their name and address to as many other people as wanted to take part. Those people would give that name and address to as many other people as they could find that also wanted to take part. Those people would post a book, any book – old or new, to that original person’s address. They would then find more people to take part, and pass on the address of person before them. Everyone sends only one book, yet there was scope to receive hundreds, from people they don’t know, in genres they may never have considered.
It sounded like a fantastic idea, and I soon set to work looking for friends and family who wanted to take part – after all, it was only if they wanted to and all they needed to do was post a book. But it wasn’t long before I got a lot of negative reactions, many of which claiming that I was a scammer, this was a pyramid scheme and these are illegal in UK businesses. Unfortunately I’m no expert on UK Business Law, but this was by far the kind of thing they were referring to. It is a very similar concept, and works in the same sort of way – but there is no monetary investment and no promise of return. Just sending a book to someone who wants to branch out their reading list.
So, in the end I didn’t take part at all, which was a real shame. I did, however, end up in touch with a man from New Orleans, US. He had a little boy who was curious about books, and I had in mind gathering these for a young relative of mine so we exchanged addresses and sent each other a local cookbook and our favourite books as children, mine for his boy and his for my relative.
It wasn’t the large number of books I’d had in mind when starting off this process, but it was a thousand times more valuable. We both put a little bit of ourselves, of our lives and of our love for our younger generations in those envelopes, and when I eventually posted it after driving around for a few months with it in the boot of my car, it felt like a very small but very real accomplishment – sending some well-chosen words (Enid Blyton’s, to be precise) across the Atlantic to be enjoyed by someone who’d never before known of lashings of ginger beer or mattresses made from heather.
I wonder now and again whether the young boy liked, or even read, that book, but I’m going to just say that he did, and he loved it.