Free Books To Random Strangers #BookItForward


“Taken by the holiday spirit, one of my customers left $20 for me to give to the next customer to put towards a book purchase. The only stipulation was that they do the same in the future. The couple I gave it to were dumbstruck and so grateful. Random acts of kindness fill your soul like nothing else.”


I love books. And I definitely love FREE books, especially if they’re ones I already have my heart set on reading.

Remember a while back when folks at one particular Starbucks were paying for the drive-thru order behind them? (Is that still going on at the original location?) Well, earlier this week, my brain went all random—as brains do—and came up with this idea to do the same thing. Only different. With books.

Thankfully, I have an independently-owned bookstore in my town. The owner, Llalan Fowler, is very involved with the community. She opens her store, Main Street Books, as a venue for local events like signings, readings, open mics, art shows, the DOW writing group, etc, etc. She’s awesome.

I was pretty sure she’d be game for helping me out with my brain’s random idea.

So, I pitched it. She was so onboard. I left $20 for the next book buyer—no strings attached.

Fast forward a little bit. A couple, not usual book buyers, who seemed a bit uncomfortable with the process, wanted to purchase a local guidebook as a gift. The owner was all excited, anticipating the moment she got to tell them their book was already paid for. They stepped to the counter. She revealed the surprise. The couple was shocked (in the best sort of way). With their day absolutely made, they scooped up their bagged book and left $20 for the next customer.

Later, a 16-year-old, who is somewhat of a regular, walked in. She was far more comfortable in the bookstore. The owner watched her browse the YA section, knowing the girl always wants more books than she has money for. (Can you relate?) As always, she carefully checked the prices. She finally selected a YA graphic novel & stepped to the counter. The owner was about to pop! Llalan rang it up, but, with a smile, wouldn’t take the girl’s money… She explained the whole story, and the ridiculously thankful & happy girl skipped out (okay, she probably didn’t actually skip) with her brand new book–paid for by some completely anonymous, random stranger.

This teen reader walks out with a free copy of Battling Boy by Paul Pope

The teen reader left with her free copy of Battling Boy by Paul Pope

Llalan recounted all this last night at this Art Party Popup Shop event we had going on across the street from the bookstore. (We love random, artsy things around here!) Her eyes were bright. She loved being a part of this ~thing~. Gifting free books to strangers? What’s not to love? She readily agreed to let me donate again. And I am. This week. Maybe today.

I shared this story on Twitter & a lot of (amazing!) writers & authors jumped in with their love for the idea. Again, WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE ABOUT GIFTING FREE BOOKS TO STRANGERS?!

And, so, a hashtag was born: #GiftItForward.

This is a wonderful, amazing thing you can participate in within your own community. Just go to a bookstore, excitedly (but coherently) explain what you want to do, and donate. The bookstore owner will be thrilled. I promise. The free book recipient will be thrilled. I promise that, too. They may or may not continue the chain. That’s a gamble, but awesome and perfect either way.

I know (sadly) not everyone has an independently-owned bookstore nearby. As creative folk and book lovers, I know we can dream up some #BookItForward solutions to work around that!

Unless someone beats her to it, is going to experiment with doing at B&N. Maybe chains will find a way to play along, too. Perhaps a $20 gift card purchased for the next stranger?

Jump in! Gift a book to a random stranger. It’s the perfect season for it. You know you want to. Just imagine yourself as the free book recipient. How amazing would that feel? You have the opportunity to gift that gift to someone else.

If you’re planning to give a shot, give a shoutout using the hashtag on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, etc. Gonna try a local bookstore? A chain? A completely other outlet/process/experiment? Share how you make the idea work in your situation.

If you do donate $20 for the next book buyer at your local indie bookstore, I’d LOVE to hear your stories via the hashtag. Pretty please? I’m pretty damn sure you won’t regret it. Heck, I’ll even promise that, too.


[I don’t know why, but I can’t convince Wordpress that I’m  now & no longer ! Apologies for the extra step, but if you share via Twitter, maybe copy+paste the link as opposed to clicking the Twitter share icon. Maybe I can sort this issue out sometime in the next decade!]

2 thoughts on “Free Books To Random Strangers #BookItForward

  1. Reblogged this on Roses and Whimsy and commented:
    Found this while browsing, and I immediately thought “I need this in my life. Like, NOW”. I’ve always been of the mindset, buy a girl a book instead of a drink. I got the crazy image in my head of running out like Mr. Scrooge after his night with the spirits, buying loads of $20 amazon/B&N gift cards and shouting like Oprah “YOU get a card, and YOU get a card”…Who’s with me?! Can we make this a movement…pleeaaase?!!


Share your gorgeous thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s