Mysterious Stacks Of Books In NYC Are Connecting Strangers From Around The World

“The people who’ve taken part in the project are now connected to me in this weird [but good] way."

03/29/2016 09:13 am ET
Stack of books left on a Times Square subway platform.

Could this be a new chapter in the way we interact with one another?

Shaheryar Malik has left stacks of books from his own library at popular destinations all over New York City. He doesn't stick around to see if anyone takes one of his books, nor does he re-visit his stacks. Instead he leaves a bookmark with his email address printed on it inside each book, in the hopes that he'll hear back from whomever decided to pick that book up.

Stack of books left in Central Park.

“If I stuck around or revisited the stacks then it would be very close to how we live 'digitally,'” Malik told The Huffington Post. “Nowadays we can go back and look at something we posted whenever we want. We can just hang around on social networks for hours [watching a post].”

So, instead he decided to leave the books to “live their own lives.”

“I felt much calmer, relaxed and yet more excited when I walked away from them,” he said.

Stack of books left in on steps near the Hudson River.

Malik’s novel idea, called The Reading Project, started last spring when he was on a walk near Brooklyn Bridge and felt the impulse to take a selfie. But right before he snapped the photo, he realized something:

“I've been on that bridge so many times and every time everyone takes the same picture and does the same thing. I wanted to try something different.”

So, instead of sharing yet another selfie of someone on The Brooklyn Bridge, he decided to share something physical instead of digital.

He went to his home library, selected a variety of titles and left a stack on New York’s iconic bridge.

Stack of books left on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Malik says he’s left eight stacks through out the city at locations like Central Park and Grand Central Station, and aside from one small stack, each consisted of about 45 to 55 books, which he typically transports from his home by car and then from the car with a trolley.  

Each stack has a note that reads: "Take a book. Any book. When you finish, email the artist.”

When someone sends him an email, Malik asks the person which book they took and where they live. 

Stack of books left on The Highline.

He's received about 70 emails from over 30 countries around the globe.

“Not all the books have been read which means this could keep going,” said Malik. “That's one of the things that I really love about this project -- it may never end.” 

Stack of books left on a footbridge above a highway near the Washington Bridge.

Malik has given away all of his books, except for three that he's currently reading. When he's finished with those, he'll keep them on his bookshelf until he’s accumulated about 40 or 50 more to create a new stack. He says he plans to leave stacks outside of New York City and mentions Malaysia and Brazil as two places he has in mind.

A small stack was left in a playground above Central Park in Harlem.

“Words in a book sitting on my shelf are meaningless and lifeless to me until they are read again,” he said. “The people who've taken part in the project are now connected to me in this weird [but good] way. I've never seen or met them, but I know what they have read and vice versa. That's pretty personal. Strange thing is that I've given a total stranger a part of me and yet, I still have it.”

Stack of books left in a building’s elevator in the Upper West Side.

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