This is an essay by Jessica McCann.
Long before Hermione Granger mesmerized little girls with her cleverness and magic, a little witch who lost her broom right before Halloween captured my heart. The Littlest Witch by Jeanne Massey is the first book I recall reading entirely by myself. I was in second grade.
My family had just returned from a trip to the public library, and I promptly disappeared into my bedroom with an armload of books. I’m sure I read them all. But there was something about The Littlest Witch that gripped me. I adored it.
For days after, I plotted and schemed to come up a way to keep the book, rather than take it back to the library. Alas, when the due date arrived, my mom made sure all the books were promptly returned. I consoled myself with the thought that by returning it, some other little girl would get to enjoy it, too. It was an epiphany. Books are meant to be shared.
Fast forward 30 plus years. My debut novel had just been published, and I was making the rounds to local bookstores with review copies in hand. I was wearing my metaphorical marketing hat, trying to sell books. The Arizona State University bookstore was among the places I visited, since I had done a lot of freelance writing for the university through the years. I was on campus around lunch time, so I grabbed some food at the Memorial Union and found a shady place outside to eat and people-watch.
The MU was a swarm of students and faculty — texting, typing on laptops, talking on cell phones. They all seemed so busy, so plugged in. All I could think was what a perfect day it was to sit in under a tree and read a book. My marketing hat had apparently blown away on the spring breeze, and my reader hat magically appeared in its place. But the only book I had with me was my own…
That’s when my second-grade epiphany echoed in my head. Books are meant to be shared. So I pulled out one of the review copies from my bag, opened it to the inside cover and wrote a note: “Books are meant to be shared. Please read this, if you’d like, and then leave it somewhere for someone else to enjoy.” I gathered my things, set the book down on the bench beside me and walked away.
That was about a year ago, and since then I’ve left behind a few more books in public places (books I had read and wanted to share, not my own book). I have also since discovered Bookcrossing.com, a fun social media site that encourages people to share books and tracks where those books have been.
Why do I love sharing books this way? In my mind’s eye, I can picture someone accidentally sitting on the book, then picking it up, cracking open the cover and getting swept away by the story. I also agree with Book Crossing’s way of thinking: “Your book doesn’t want to spend its life on your shelf gathering dust; it wants to get out there and touch lives!”
Now that’s magic.
Jessica McCann, a professional freelance writer and novelist, lives with her family in Phoenix, Arizona. Her nonfiction work has been published in Business Week, The Writer and Phoenix magazines, among others. All Different Kinds of Free is her award-winning debut novel. She welcomes interaction with readers and writers at her website and on Twitter (@JMcCannWriter).