Leaving Books in Public Places

I love books. So, naturally, I used to collect them. I kept all the books I had ever read, I bought dozens of books that I still wanted to read and I even bought antique books which I would never read but which looked good. My house was like a library.

And then I began to move to a different country every year. Books are a bloody hard thing to move, especially hundreds and thousands of them. So, I had to leave them behind. I sold some of them, I gave some of them away as gifts and many of my books remained behind in heavy cardboard boxes.

Now, because I know that I will move to another country, possible even another continent, every few months, I don’t have this obsession with ownership anymore. I know there is no point in keeping my books because they won’t fit into my bag when I move to South America, take a train to Russia or hike through Africa.

Now whenever I finish reading a book while on a train, in a park or in church, I leave it behind and hope that somebody will find it, pick it up and read it. If you have found a book on a bus in Malta, a train in Lithuania, a boat in Venice or a park in Romania in the last few years, chances are that it was one of mine. I hope you enjoyed it.

When leaving books in public places, I have the romantic imagination of somebody finding it whose life will be touched, or even changed, by the book. A poor child who will discover her love for literature. Somebody who will fall in love with a hitherto unknown writer. Someone who hasn’t traveled but will read about foreign countries for the first time. – I am aware that the book is probably more likely to end up in the trash, but still, each time I leave a book behind, I wonder who will read it next.

Another romantic thing which you can’t do with your e-book.


  • More about books.
  • And my wishlist. Maybe you have one of those books at home and don’t need it anymore?

About Andreas Moser

Travelling the world and writing about it. I have degrees in law and philosophy, but I'd much rather be a writer, a spy or a hobo.
This entry was posted in Books, Photography, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Leaving Books in Public Places

  1. Tania B says:

    I share this ‘leave a read book behind’ attitude. I also enjoy giving them to the local library, charity shops and bazaar places. I feel that since I have given in to the pleasure of a real book (versus e-book), I should do my utmost to recycle both the material and the pleasure. I confess that I do still keep a substantial amount of those books I know I will go back to over and over :)

  2. A great idea for you, with your more generalised interests. Unfortunately, I can’t see a mass of people all trying to get access to my copies of “Armored Vehicles of the 20th Century” and “Warplanes of the Third Reich”. ;)

  3. Amy says:

    I love these kind of random things! I’ve done this a couple of times mostly because I carried them on my holiday and couldn’t be bothered carried them all the way home again once I finished… I also wrote messages on the front page… :)

  4. Very thoughtful of you! If you want to be sure the book will not end up in trash, maybe do like in the UK, leave a postit saying “Help yourself”))

  5. Def, leave a message on the first page…

  6. Greg says:

    This is a thing that is dying in u.s , most book stores are closing and everybody is going to e-books . I think much will be lost , we need books so we know ourselves imagine if the Romans had put everything on a iPad what records would we have of it now? My first book I read on my own was The amityville horror at 12, I couldnt sleep for months I gave the book to my son later he told me he never read it and that he had seen the movie so he threw it away , I too had watched the movie and it was nothing like when I had read the book! In my mind it was much better than the movie , while the movie are getting better in the visual aspect it stop us from using are minds and creating our world ! If they stop making books they killing our world and our minds.
    That is how I see it and I have read many book since my first book and understand the importance of them but I think it is getting lost, While kids think they are smarter than us and we verse our parent here a few thing everybody knew that we don’t now!
    Could you hunt and kill a animal and know how to preserve the meat to last a winter?
    Could you make your own shirt with out buying it or a sewing machine ?
    Could you gather the ingredient to make flour and make a loaf of bread?
    Could you make a peice of steel or any metal?
    Knowledge is power and books are knowledge!

  7. Zio Alberto says:

    Finally a romantic thought Andreas.

    Not always this politics and philosophic bla bla bla.

    Very good!

  8. cafecasey says:

    I love this thought, and this blog. Glad you linked to it. I’ve been trying to get rid of stuff for years, and finally, did just that. I imagine that someone else needs it more. Books are tough, because I often cycle through them and use them for work, but the things I can get at a library, the non-specialty ones, getting easier to share along. I’ve had one major move and a giant flood in 2010. Those things also helped me see the value of freeing myself from the last extra layer of stuff. Nice post.

  9. Wow!! Very powerful. I love books, collect them, and MOVE because we are military, and yes, it’s HARD to move with all these awesome books. I love the idea of giving them away, but they feel like they are a part of me.

    • I know it’s not easy to let go of books. I also used to have a huge library and now, thanks to moving a least once every year, I have only about 40 books at home.
      But wherever you move, you can always get new books to build up another library quickly.
      If you have a lot of good books, maybe a local library would be interested in them when you move? This way you do something for the public good.
      I have also found some used book stores which exchange books. You take your used books there and pick other used books, maybe 1 “new” one for 3 or 4 of your old ones (because the store has to cover the expenses and turn a little profit). This way you reduce the amount of books you have to move, but you get new reading material.

  10. Always a good idea. Unfortunately I forgot the name, but there’s even an international website that came up with this “leave behind idea” when you find a book you register it and someone can take and can leave another one behind. If the person “pins” your book you know who got it. I’ll try to remember or do some research….

  11. Adaku says:

    Great idea! I think I’ll try that with books I don’t have an overly sentimental attachment to. :’D another reason why paperbacks trump ebooks.

  12. Oh so it was you? I hope you got mine, too.

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  14. Mellissa Radtke says:

    I do the same thing with my books after I’ve read them. Good thing I read German because everyone I talk to here in this small town says they can’t speak English. Love the idea that some total stranger will read it and have a kind of connection to me but I’ll never know. It is sort of romantic…

  15. Pam says:

    Love this idea

  16. Pingback: An unexpected find | The Happy Hermit

  17. In the time of the Corona virus, you can onlny do that if it has a sanitary proof that it is not hazardous (virus-free). The sanitary check will cost you more than a mere book, so just throw it away, mourn over it for a couple of minutes, and with saved money buy the next one from your list.✔️🎯

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