The Take Shelf

Ship of TheseusThe take shelf is as magical as it sounds. In the world of publishing, most companies have shelves of extra books, open to anyone for the taking. Sometimes the take shelf goes beyond books. I have seen DVDs, food, and even a baby—alright, that was a prank—on shelves, up for the taking. It is like a library with an extended group of friends. If you love a book, you might put it on the shelf for one of your friends to discover. But what would happen if an old library book, full of notes littering the margins and stuffed with post cards, newspaper clippings, and letters ended up on a take shelf. What would you do? Would you try to return it to its owner, to the library stacks from which it fled, or pick it up a read along?
Ship of Theseus
A copy of S., conceived by J.J. Abrams and written by Doug Dorst, recently appeared on a take shelf without the slipcase explaining the interior of the book. It became, simply, the Laguna Verde High School Library copy of the Ship of Theseus by V.M. Straka. Published by the Winged Shoes Press in 1949, stuffed with notes and ephemera from students Jen and Eric. An anonymous report has it appearing on a take shelf and disappearing on the same day. Now, someone else has it.

Do they know what it really is? I hope not. I hope they have a similar experience to J.J. Abrams. When he was at LAX, 15 years ago, he found a novel sitting on a bench. Inside someone had written on the title page, “to whomever find this book please read it and take it somewhere and leave it for someone else to read.” That event never left him and inspire S., a book that is more about the experience of reading it than anything else.

I hope whoever found the book reads along, follows the clues, keeps pursuing answers, and returns the book to a take shelf. For someone else to discover.