A stack several feet high waits at the center of the Broooklyn Bridge, another stands tall in Central Park, and smaller stacks rest on abandoned swing sets and staircases. Inside each book is a bookmark, scribbled with an email, and a request to contact the address after finishing the book wedged between the reader’s hands.
The mysterious stacks are all a part of The Reading Project, an initiative started by Shaheryar Malik, and his goal to foster a community around books – not the estranged void of social media.
Sharing a beloved read is a peek behind the veil of your thougths, an intimate exchange traditionally kept between friends and family. But with his project, Malik seeks to hurdle that boundary, and connect more deeply with complete strangers. A common reading list is common ground, and although Malik may never see or meet the people who pick up his books, he and the reader share the secret knowledge of knowing what the other has read. “I’ve given a total stranger a part of me and yet, I still have it,” Malik tells Huffington Post.
This idea for a literary connection was spurred by the artist’s observation of how we interact with social media. We take the same monotonous photos posted from the same cliché spots, and we wait around for feedback, followers, likes and comments. It’s a dreary and draining process, with mainly unfruitful connections. Seeking to counteract this behavior, Malik dropped his stacks and didn’t look back. He didn’t wait for feedback or to see how the books would be perceived, and rather than sharing a moment with a selfie or a tweet, he shared a piece of himself with a book.
His recycled reads have reached far beyond the scope of New York, the U.S., and Malik’s wildest expectations. So far, he’s connected with over 70 people and 30 countries, and shared eight stacks consisting of somewhere between 45 and 55 books. What’s next for the project? Malik is thinking Malaysia or Brazil as potential next stops.
Learn more about the project here, and if you’re around, come grab a new read!
Images courtesy of Huffington Post.