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Mysterious piles of books connect strangers

The art of conversation

Discover how mysterious piles of books are connecting strangers around the world.

Once upon a time, mysterious stacks of books appeared on New York’s Brooklyn Bridge. Many eager strangers looked on, confused at the spectacle. The piles of books slowly began popping up across the city; in elevators, subways, playgrounds and more – the phenomenon got momentum, gaining traction worldwide.

It all started with artist and bibliophile, Shaheryar Malik, who was about to take a selfie on the iconic New York bridge but then found himself questioning how he was connecting to the space and the people around him. “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” explained Malik. Instead, he put his phone away and selected titles from his library and left them on the bridge, free for people to enjoy – that is how ‘The Reading Project’ came to be.

Malik’s process is simple; he places a bookmark with his email address in each book, and then creates a stack with the books leaving a note on top. "Take a book. Any book. When you finish, email the artist”.

Preferring to let serendipity take its course, Malik never sticks around to monitor the stacks’ progress. “I felt much calmer, relaxed and yet more excited when I walked away from them” he said.

The result? So far Malik has received about 70 emails from over 30 countries around the globe. He likes to begin the conversation by asking the person which book they took and where they live, “the people who’ve taken part in the project are now connected to me in this weird [but good] way."

Currently, Malik has given away almost all of his books, with only three remaining in his personal library (which he needs to read first!) He plans on buying and sharing more books in more cities around the world.

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