For the Love of Books is a series of blogs we have run this fall of 2011 to celebrate all things BOOK. This week we feature a memoir writer living in Brooklyn, Ashley Grill. Ashley brings a different perspective with her observations of living in Brooklyn and seeing books everywhere…..
“Walking along the rows of brownstone buildings in Park Slope is one of my favorite things about living in Brooklyn, NY. I like to walk from my apartment to the Grand Army Plaza Fountain. There is something about the arch that makes me feel things. It is the feeling I got as a child when I’d visit a museum or see great art. I never get tired of seeing Grand Army Plaza or looking at the fountain spray. It inspires me.
During the walk I hunt for books along the sidewalk. People put out the most amazing and diverse selection of books.
Many of the books are about the mind-body connection, healing, medicine, and self-help. Other times, I find children’s books, cookbooks, romances, or old textbooks.
I almost always take a photograph of the books that I pass. It is an unofficial log of what books people have collected and then let go.
In this densely populated neighborhood, real estate is a premium. Plus, those of us who commute find reading on the train to be a good way to spend the time. I watch the people on the train who read books. Lots of books.
When I see more than a few books on a stoop, I like to think about who picked the books and what inspired the purchases. Take this pile.
This person is interested in everything: romance, memoirs, non-fiction, classic literature, general fiction, and other random items. When I saw the romance book, I was surprised. I almost never see romance on people’s stoops. The book that caught my eye was a book I knew well by Suzanne Enoch. It was a story that I had stopped reading because the plot became totally unbelievable. Usually I don’t dwell on the books I’ve read, but I’d stuck this one in my desk drawer at work for several months. Every time I opened the drawer, I would feel disappointed. The title of the book was Before the Scandal: The Notorious Gentleman. When I saw it in the pile, I was reassured that someone else had made the same mistake. I gave new meaning to romance novels as “trashy novels.” I was too embarrassed to put it out on my stoop, so I stuffed it deep down in the garbage. Sometimes I feel paranoid and imagine someone or some Buddha of Books planted specific titles there for me to find it. Is this a law of karma which reminds me that I tossed another author’s work in the trash just a few days before?
At the next stoop offering a free book collection, I found someone who likes holistic medicine, anthropology, and organic gardening. This collection fascinated me. They had the Beastie Boys book, Einstein’s biography, metaphysics, and a curious novel called The Reliable Wife. I want to read that book.
In this collection is another book that I’ve owned before.
The Sexual Life of Catherine M. is a book I dabbled in reading several years ago while I was living in a small town in New Hampshire. I felt scandalous reading it on my sofa in my rural community in Northern New England. On the streets of Brooklyn, NY, it seems tame here: a vibrant and diverse place with interesting street art, graffiti, sidewalk chalkings, free books on stoops, stray cigarette butts, and dog piss.
These street scenes of books on stoops makes me see my neighborhood and city as people who share books. Pick up a free book today. The city that reads: Brooklyn.