The Secret Life of Readers

May 9, 2018

 

My family has taken on a service project. We have become volunteers for Operation Paperback. 

 

This unique organization has impressed me with its simple mission to distribute gently used paperback books to service members and their families living in the U.S. and deployed overseas. Service members log on to the site, request the types of books they like, and volunteers send books that they have. 

 

Reading is a way for service members to escape boredom and to enrich their free time. By default, the program also recycles thousands of books that may be tossed into landfills. And, it supports our troops by showing that people care. 

 

The Secret Life of Readers

 

Our community has been generous with donations. Books take up a lot of room and are the type of possession that people feel bad about tossing. In the process of donating books, they have unwittingly exposed their personalities. 

 

One generous book donor is a huge sci-fi fan. But, hidden in the piles of titles that include, Larry Niven, Isaac Asimov, and Ursual K. Le Guin was James Joyce's, Ulysees, and John Howard Grffin's, Black Like Me.

 

Perhaps these were long forgotten college text books. However, they have been living on the sci-fi shelves for years judging by the books' ages and conditions. 

 

Another box contained the Twilight series, romance novels, mixed with Ellen Wittlinger's, Hard Love, a Lambda Literary Award winner. I like the idea of teen readers (I'm guessing it's a girl) stepping away from the pop culture supernatural to taste another side of teen life. I would love to know how this book ended up on the shelf and what the reader thought.

 

We've got biographies of pirates, books on Feng Shui, Dan Brown action-fests, literary titles, and non-fiction books about war zones and poverty.

 

Many books come right off the best-seller list. Some I've set aside to read myself before I send them to their next homes. Call it a side perk for a book nerd. What I like the most are the books and authors I've never heard of. It's like stumbling into the stacks of a library and having someone hand you a book "read this," they say.  What's missing is the chance to ask these books about the books. Where and when did you get them? Why? And what did you think? 

 

If I only had time to read every book first. Connect the titles and decide for myself. But time is something I don't have the service members do. The piles are in boxes, off to the post-office, headed to points around the globe. 

 

I can then hope once they are read, the new owner will share them as well. But because these books were not personally chosen, who knows what anyone can make from the titles and their owners. Maybe the books the change us. Maybe we change them.

 

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Sharon J. Wishnow -
Entrepreneur, Speaker & Author
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© 2018 by Sharon J. Wishnow. All Rights Reserved

 

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