Thursday, January 27, 2011

Random Acts of Book-Giving

By Kathie Felix

I had the best surprise the other day when I opened my mailbox. The first thing I saw was a brown cardboard box that seemed close in size and shape to a hard cover book. I immediately assumed that it contained a book – and then remembered I hadn’t ordered anything lately.

As I walked to my front door, I began to wonder about the package. This turned out to be great fun; the cascade of possibilities – in terms of the contents and the sender – genuinely appealed to the mystery lover in me.

Once indoors, I thought about spending more time in speculation. I took a few steps toward the living room, enjoying the anticipation – and then decided it might be even more fun to know what was inside the box.

It was a treat to open the package and find a copy of Chicago Blues, edited by Libby Fischer Hellmann.

If you haven’t encountered the book yet, it’s an anthology of crime stories about “the real windy city,” with selections written by Chicago authors including SinC founding mother and 2011 MWA Grand Master Sara Paretsky.

It turned out that a longtime friend, Keith Fort, a Chicago resident for most of his adult life, was reading the book and thought that it was something that I would enjoy. He was absolutely correct.

My good fortune at the mailbox reminded me that a few months earlier I had received another unexpected package. That mailing, from my sister, contained a copy of The Murder Room by Michael Capuzzo, a look into the secret investigations of the crime-fighting Vidocq Society. She had been inspired to send the book to me after hearing about it on National Public Radio.

The two surprise packages led me to develop a plan to send another book out into the world to an unsuspecting recipient. I won’t reveal the title or the recipient, but I will offer some questions:

Have you ever received an unexpected gift of a book? Who sent it – and what book did they send?

Would you send a book that’s a perfect fit to an unsuspecting recipient this week? Would you ask an independent bookseller to handle the transaction for you? (And, if you like the idea, would you pass it on?)

Kathie Felix is the managing editor of the SinC blog. She also writes a weekly column for the Loudoun Times-Mirror, a newspaper based in Leesburg, Virginia.


Kristi said...

I was a little baffled once to receive a graphic novel about zombies at my home. The return address listed a person I did not know. As a former crime reporter in California with my name all over the place it was a little disconcerting. But then the mystery was solved three months later when my brother called. He asked if my husband had received a graphic novel. My brother had bought it for him off ebay. For some reason he accidentally addressed it to me. Go figure.

Polly said...

I received a book in the mail just this week. It was Barbara Walters' memoir. I had met the lady who sent it to me once before, but this time it was a family holiday party, and I brought her and her husband truffles as a token gesture. It was a lovely surprise when the book arrived. I can't wait to read it.

Jon The Crime Spree Guy said...

For this year's Bouchercon we picked over 100 people at random who had registered before January 1st. We than had publishers mail out books to them, books by authors who generally come to the convention.

Surprising people with books rocks.

Kathie Felix said...

What a great idea, Jon! (And now many folks are no doubt wishing they'd registered for Bouchercon by Dec 31.)

Zombies and Barbara Walters on the same blog page! Thanks for sharing your stories, Kristi and Polly. Random book-giving is clearly dizzy with possibility!

Sandra Parshall said...

I'm always happy when a friend says I made her a fan of this or that writer by giving her a book she might not have read otherwise. Don't wait for a friend to get around to reading a terrific book -- give it to her!

Za said...

Speaking as an independent bookseller, I was recently asked to send books to a friend of a customer who has a tough time getting around -- so she asks me to recommend titles, we discuss and then I deliver them to her. She liked a couple of them so much that she wanted to send copies to an out-of-state friend. One was A Small Death in the Great Glen, a debut mystery set in rural Scotland and the other was one of the Felony & Mayhem titles - forget which - maybe Reg Hill or Elizabeth Ironside?
Love my job!

Za said...

Oops - Bookstore is Partners & Crime Mystery Booksllers in Greenwich Village.