These Books Were Free

Calgary Little Library Park

You may have Little Free Libraries in your town: birdhouse- or china cabinet-looking boxes where the whole neighbourhood can bring books to give away, and take home books to read. Calgary has seen an outbreak of these over the past years, and my household has been known to sow our literary tastes around town by this means.

As far as taking books home, though, I rarely find much to get excited about. The usual selection might include some James Patterson paperbacks and Chicken-Soup kinds of things. But the other day I finally made two solid scores from a Little Free Library: Anthony Burgess’s Earthly Powers and Simon Schama’s Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution.

They were waiting for me in the fine case pictured above, just down the street from where I grew up, and in which we had unloaded a bunch of our old giveaways and doubles the week before.

Simon Schama Citizens Anthony Burgess Earthly Powers

I like to think they both came from the same person, who must have a prime collection if these are the kinds of things they’re giving away. Maybe they even picked up a couple of our former books while they were dropping these ones off.

Anyways, this library has a cute sign above it saying “All you need in life is a garden and a good library” to which I say, you can keep your vegetables but bring on the books.

A new review is on its way!


4 thoughts on “These Books Were Free

  1. We put up a little free library and I do try to keep it stocked with high quality literature. Our neighbors have also contributed some great books. We’ve had a few Pattersons sneak in but not too many. Glad you found a few good books!


  2. I have so many crazy thoughts about these Little Free Library boxes because I was raised to worship and respect books. It’s taken me a long time to remember libraries let me borrow for free, and my Nook lets me download a book immediately, but I’ve gotten to a place where I will give away books. We have two Little Free Libraries near my house. One is cute and looks loved and has a bench by it. There are sometimes books that I would want to take in there, but I definitely hear you on the Chicken Soup Complaint Hotline. The other one is new….and it’s the same shape as the other, but it looks like it’s made out of old plywood….and it’s in a neighborhood in which the houses look rather shoddy. My first thoughts were ridiculous: what if someone takes books from the box just to throw them away? What if someone uses the books as kindling? What if little kids take them and just color all over in them? *scary lightning cracks* My husband pointed out that even if every book in the box were colored on, we would have given someone an experience with a book. It’s like marketing, he says: you make the product available, and people in engage with it (or don’t) however they wish. Someone who maybe treats books terribly 99 times will open a book and read a few words 1 time, and that’s okay. And why do I think such neighborhoods, ones that look run down, don’t want books? They must have put up the Little Free Library for a reason. I feel ashamed to admit much of this, but I wanted to share with people in the hopes that they pass their books along, too, and don’t worry about what happens to their little book lives. Books can be replaced; experiences cannot.


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