Far and away the best thing I’ve discovered from this project has been my local New York Public Library branch. Though I used libraries in high school and college, once I graduated I mostly purchased books. Poking around well-curated book stores is one of my favorite things to do and I rarely leave empty-handed.
Amazon Recommends became a new, less magical, way of doing that. One-clicked books piled up, often not read. I call these my aspirational books. I believe I’ll read them. I’d like to be the kind of person who would read them. But often I don’t read them. This year I’d planned to read them all. Instead I’m checking out books from the library.
Now when I walk past my local independent book store, I look at the collection in the window and whip out my iPhone. The NYPL has an app and I easily request whatever catches my eye. Usually within a week, it’s at my local branch for pickup. I can be the person who reads To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918!
But here’s the thing: if enough time goes by, I have to return my library books. And when I’ve failed to become the person who reads the entire book about World War I, that’s ok. Back it goes to the NYPL. I will now be the person who reads Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier. At least until early June.