This weekend we took some old friends who were staying the weekend out on a tour of the Oxfordshire countryside. We visited Blenheim Palace (getting in the free, but legal, way) and then went on to Great Tew, a lovely little village full of picture postcard thatched cottages and Porsche 911s.
After popping in to the pub to avoid the frequent rain showers, we walked back to the car. On the way I glanced into the village phone box and noticed a clear plastic bag containing paperback book propped up on the shelf. I thought someone must have left their book there by mistake, perhaps a freebie in one of the Sunday papers.
In fact, it had been left there deliberately, a fact that emerged when I picked it up, got it out and noticed a sticker on the cover; "Free Book - please read label inside cover and follow instructions".
The label inside told me that this book was traveling around the world making new friends. It went on to hope that it had made a new friend in me and directed me to a web site www.bookcrossing.com, where I could enter a code and find out where it had been, and - presumably - add something about what I thought of it and what I planned to do with it next.
Are there dozens, hundreds or thousands of books doing the rounds like this? I think it's intriguing and a great way to use the leveling of the world that the Internet can help create. in years gone by, people travelling on tight budgets would often leave books or pick up books left in far-flung parts of the world. I remember reading a Dornford Yates novel found in a youth hostel in Israel and passing it one to another back in the UK. But the World Wide Web adds a chance not just to enjoy a random book, but also to create a story about its journey. Great idea.
Haven't decided yet where this one will wash up for another person to discover.