In those public bookshelves, 96.5% of the books deposited are rubbish. That’s only natural, because people keep the really good books or give them to friends.
There are exceptions, but they are rare.
A few days ago, I passed such a glass box during my evening walk around Munich. Even though I’m well aware of the above statistics, not least because I created them out of thin air myself, I can rarely restrain my curiosity.
Without much hope, I rummaged through the usual cheesy love novellas, outdated editions of law books, and volumes of SAT exams from 1995 that would be considered unsolvable today. Probably because a trip to Sweden is imminent, I reached for the off-puttingly thick and long-windedly titled book “The Hundred-Year-Old Man who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared” by Swedish-sounding Jonas Jonasson.
Not wanting to remove the book from public access on mere suspicion, I sat down on a nearby park bench and began reading.
At first I smiled. Then I grinned. Then I held my stomach laughing. And all that while on the first few pages.
I spent the next two evenings until late at night with Allan Karlsson, a centenarian explosives expert blasting his way through Sweden and 20th century history. Originally, he just wants to escape his own birthday party (an understandable desire), but an hour later he’s already being hunted by the local mafia, finding refuge with a fellow senior citizen who is also not quite law-abiding, and thus begins their great escape.
The plot and entanglements are ingeniously constructed, but the tone is so light and humorous, even when people are dying to the left and right. The revolutions, world wars and other annoyances that Allan Karlsson has survived in his long life are told in alternation to the crime and escape plot, with only the experience of forced sterilization being truly distressing. Through all other situations, he winds his way with humor, friendly reserve and constant open-mindedness to new things.
Thrilling like a Swedish crime novel, but funny like a Swedish Švejk. And a book that, with its middle-aged to very old protagonists, makes you look forward to that third stage of life.
So for once, here’s a reading recommendation for rather light literature. If anyone has read any of the other books by Jonas Jonasson, I would be curious to hear your opinion. – And did any of you ever find anything worthwhile in these public bookshelves?