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Things I Love: The Free Shelf

January 28, 2014


My laboratory has a book exchange shelf filled with mostly uninteresting books.  Every now and then, some potentially good finds pop up. 

I am engrossed in J.M. Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians.  It is not a book I would have found if it hadn’t been waiting on the free shelf.

     For a few days the fisherfolk are a diversion, with their strange gabbling, their vast appetites, their animal shamelessness, their volatile tempers.  The soldiers lounge in the doorways watching them, making obscene comments about them which they do not understand, laughing; there are always children with their faces pressed to the bars of the gate; snd from my window I stare down, invisible behind the glass.

Then, all together, we lose sympathy with them.

The free shelf books are a gamble.  Will it feel worth my time?  Will it be fascinating?  Will I discover something entirely unknown to me?  I like the adventure of it.  And when I’m done, the books usually find their way back to the shelf and onward to someone else’s to-read stack.  It is a lovely part of my world.

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