Random Acts of Books

How a book sharing initiative is spreading a love for reading and kindness across the world.

The Book Fairies. (2017). Retrieved from http://ibelieveinbookfairies.com/

Entitled, narcissistic, cynical, wasteful, these are just a few words used to describe the Millennial Generation by OLDER generations. However, our generation has experienced an intense rise of terrorist attacks, a recession, unresolved wars, and major natural disastrous.  Words used to describe OURSELVES include: empathetic, hardworking, and open to change. Our generation is the most diverse, educated, and politically involved (Tanenhaus. “Generation Nice.” 2014). These generational qualities have lead to the creation of Facebook, a global Women’s March, and now The Book Fairies.

Cordelia Oxley launched the Book Fairies program on March 1, 2017. Their home base is London, United Kingdom, however the program is an international initiative that has spread to over 100 countries. Their mission: to share books, inspire a love for reading, and spread kindness.

Inadvertently, the Book Fairies have also taken on a political role. They have partnered with Emma Watson, an active feminist. Watson has used the platform to share a feminist book club; she has left books, like The Handmaid’s Tale, during significant current events, like International Women’s Day.

The Book Fairies. (2017). Retrieved from http://ibelieveinbookfairies.com/

Anyone can be a Book Fairy. There are no restrictions on race, gender, age, or country. To investigate the people behind the books, data was collected from the Book Fairies Worldwide Instagram account from March 1, 2017 to June 30, 2017. Data collection included: locations, number of books left, authors, titles, and subject headings. The first map below represents the world (United States excluded).  Each dot represents the location of a book left by a Book Fairy and the date the book was dropped.

This next map represents the location of books left by Book Fairies in the United States and the titles of the books that have been dropped. The most popular book that has been dropped, so far, is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Millennials have another important descriptor, my favorite descriptor, the Harry Potter generation. According to a 2011 study, “Harry Potter lovers are more accepting towards stigmatized groups, like immigrants, refugees, and members of the LGBTQ community” (Schreiber, 2017), confirming the way that Millennials describe themselves, open-minded and understanding of diversity, being a diverse generation themselves.  The data collected reveals hints about population of the Book Fairies and the type of group they represent.

What else does the data reveal about the faces behind the books? We’ve established that this is a product of the Millennial Generation, so what types of books are they sharing? A subject heading search via WorldCat was used to answer this question. Overwhelmingly, books categorized as juvenile fiction were shared the most. Books in this categories include, Harry Potter, Alice in Wonderland, and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Clearly, Book Fairies want to share forms of escapism. The escapist appeal is more prevalent during times of turmoil. Other headings that are well represented include: young women, feminist, and African American Women. The data is representing the feminist influence, so I might infer that a majority of the Book Fairies are female, of course unless we collected data on gender we won’t know for certain.

This next map highlights all the countries where Book Fairies have dropped books and how many books have been left in each country. The map shows us which countries have the most activity of Book Fairies, with the United States in the lead and the U.K. in second. This map shows us that almost 400 books have been dropped worldwide, and those are just the ones the Instagram account made public, there are most likely more! That is almost 400 people discovering these books, people who may not have the means to purchase books, people who need to escape from the world around them, if only for a moment, and people who experience joy at finding a book. The possibilities are endless!

So now that we have looked at the data collection, what does it all mean? The Book Fairies are a reaction to the times we live in. They care about people, education, and politics. The Book Fairies are accepting of everyone and do not discriminate against race, gender, or religion. This global understanding of acceptance contributes to the book initiative popularity, attracting celebrates and everyday people. The saying,“practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty”, coined in 1982, still rings true today (Canfield & Hansen, 1994).

The inspirational way that the Book Fairies have promoted a love for reading, sharing, and feminism inspired me to become a Book Fairy. I love that I get to pass on my favorite books to strangers; I recently introduced Harry Potter to someone younger than myself, and watching her experience it was like reading it for the first time all over again. My book drops have become more strategic as I travel. I research differently locations I want to leave a book and this has encouraged me to learn more about not only my own city, but cities and countries I visit. This Story Map represents my journey as a Book Fairy.

The act of leaving random books for people to find encourages giving, kindness and unity, in a time in our history were there is division and distrust among race, gender, and religion and the United States administration suggested cutting the budget for libraries. This project promotes the truth in what a specific demographic cares about. As one Millennial said, “the better you are doing, the more you can share with people” (Tanenhaus, 2015). While seen by older generations as selfish and entitled, WE see possibilities and know if we want to see change we have to be the change.

Works Cited

About the Book Fairies. (2017). Retrieved from http://ibelieveinbookfairies.com/about-the-book-fairies/

Canfield, J., & Hansen, M. V. (1996). A Second (2nd) helping of Chicken soup for the soul: 101 more stories to open the heart and rekindle the spirit. Deerfield Beach, Fla: Health Communications.

Schreiber, Sarah. 2017 January 26. Reading Harry Potter Makes You a Better Person, Science Says So. GoodHouseKeeping. http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/health/wellness/news/a42557/harry-potter-better-person/

Tanenhaus, Sam. 2015 August 15. Generation Nice: The Millennials are Generation Nice. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/17/fashion/the-millennials-are-generation-nice.html