I’ve whined before about the disappearance of bookmobiles, those branch libraries on wheels that formerly parked in old two-room schoolhouse yards, at churches and community centers. Unfortunately, they’ve disappeared like thick, Sunday newspapers.
Books have almost followed them, supplanted by downloaded books and cat videos.
There was an old couple we used to see at Sunday lunch, usually at Nautica Joe’s when it was still on the island. They would get a table and then sit silently reading paperbacks. That was before before young people ignored the friends they were with and busily sent texts to those who weren’t there.
The good thing about printed books is they work in the absence of WiFi, and they’re somehow easier on the eyes.
There’s a substitute for the bookmobile for those who don’t want to buy everything they read. Todd H. Bol used an old garage door to build the first Little Free Library, a library on a stick, 10 years ago in Hudson, Wis. The concept has spread around the globe and there are now 90,000 of them.
St. Simons and Brunswick have a pretty good number, some part of the book-swapping network, some freelance.
They’re put up by homeowners usually on the edges of their property. They advise “Take a book, share a book.” Around here, they’re like snowflakes: No two are alike.
You can find one on a map at littlefreelibrary.org, but I couldn’t find two that were supposedly in Brunswick.
Most have some things in common. They typically have a couple of shelves and are painted to match the shutters, door, trim or feature on the houses.
The wooden one in front of St. Simons Elementary and one on nearby College Avenue take only children’s books. The school has dozens of thin little books with a lot of pictures along with more advanced “Why We Have Thanksgiving,’’ “They Babysitters Club’’ and “Sweet Valley Twins & Friends.”
Where have you gone Joe Dimaggio and Nancy Drew?
Anna Garrison has one for children with the books sheltered in an old newspaper rack.”The Web-Footed Friends” library encourages users to say hello to Pat, Debbie and Florence, the three ducks in a pen just behind it. The ducks produced the feathers offered as free bookmarks.
The library at St. Simons United Methodist, as one would imagine, also has children’s books, a lot of Bible-based volumes and some combinations including, “Pudge Ate a Prophet: A Big Fish Tale.” One imagines Pudge swallowed Jonah, but I prefer the King James Version of that story.
There was one, “Into the Night,” however, that seems too racy for church folk and you sure wouldn’t find it in front of a Southern Baptist Church. According to notes on the back cover, the heroine Page “is dismayed when Muldoon breaks through her defenses.” One wonders exactly what Page was defending, but I left that book in the box, too.
The nice little library on the fence at the Gray Owl bed-and-breakfast has a very nice collection, among them Elmore Leonard’s “City Primeval,’’ Robin Cook’s “Harmful Intent” and Franklin Graham’s “Rebel With a Cause.”
That’s the library where John Lowrey parked his vehicle across the road one morning and hurriedly stirred around in the half light after leaving a book. He was on his way from the gym to the beach to take a sunrise picture. If you see a Danielle Steele at the Gray Owl, Lowrey didn’t leave it, and he leaves far more books than he takes.
“I already have too many books as it is,’’ he said of his generosity. He reads two books a month, minimum, so it wouldn’t take long to fill his shelves.
He doesn’t give everything away.
“I keep all my Cormac McCarthy,’’ he said. “I just finished ‘Child of God,’ ‘’ another keeper.
The McCarthy books have no real value, but he stows the books he really likes in the attic and donates the rest most of which aren’t for the average reader.
“I’m kind of subversive in what I like to read,’’ he said and gave “The Wicker Man” and “Harvest Home,’’ as examples.
He donated both of the dark novels.
“I feel like if I can introduce something like, I’ve contributed something to literature,’’ he said.
He wondered what it would be like if someone looking for something to read through sunglasses while sunbathing were to pick up “The Wicker Man.”
“I thought about somebody on St. Simons looking for a beach read and getting that with pagans killing each other,’’ he said.
One imagines it would hit them like a rogue wave.
He’s read some thick books, like “Bonfire of the Vanities’’ by Tom Wolfe. He hasn’t read “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,’’ but said, “it’s on my list.” As Wolfes go, your columnist prefers Thomas.
He’s always adding to his reading list and went through some good books when he served in Afghanistan as a special agent with the Diplomatic Security Service. He was able to read good books there because the contractors at the presidential palace had a very good library.
It was in Afghanistan that Lowrey read Jon Krakauer’s “Into the Wild,’’ the great account of a man who went to Alaska, took up residence in a school bus intending to live off the land. The land, however, doesn’t take checks or American Express so it ended badly.
“Into the Wild” will always be linked to his time in Afghanistan, Lowrey said.
I know what he means. I read John Steinbeck’s “Once There was a War,’’ his collection of war correspondence from World War II, during an unpopular war. I picked it from a box of books a resupply helicopter brought in the middle of a long mission in the mountains west of Da Nang. I read it mostly under a poncho shelter during the monsoon season.
If you have a copy you don’t want, drop it off at at the little library at the Gray Owl.
Lowrey added it to his list.