Bibliotherapy in the Time of Covid-19

Everyone needs some magic for the soul.


I love books. After my family, they are the center of my universe and always have been. I can’t imagine my life without them. I can go on vacation or live in someone else’s shoes simply by opening a book. It is my escape hatch, a portal into another realm.

I have shelves full of books — those read and those still waiting for me. Bibliophiles feel the magnetic pull of books for sale, screaming out from store racks or library shelves or garage-sale tables. Most book lovers are inundated with them.

As a book reviewer, I’m constantly receiving new ones — many times, advance reading copies straight from publishers. There is nothing better than getting books in the mail, their cardboard wrappers teasing me with the special treat inside. My heart rate goes up when the UPS truck stops in front of my house.

E-books are okay — they only take up virtual space, you can highlight and make virtual notes, and the dictionary feature is the bomb — but they can’t compare to the feel of print covers (some satiny vellum, some slick and glossy, some rough to the touch) or the paper as you’re turning pages, devouring the words.

I share books with other avid readers like my mom, but I don’t have many readers in my family (I'm not sure how that happened). I’ve donated books to a small library at a local nursing home, hoping its residents might relish the selection. But I’ve been told there aren’t many who read a lot at that facility, so I’m not sure how much it helps.

To my surprise, I’ve had trouble finding places that might enjoy a free used-book library. (I could donate to an outreach program that resells books to fund programs, but I would prefer they go right into the hands of readers.) I have A LOT of books needing adoption.

When the pandemic struck and isolated people at home, I wondered about the bibliophiles who don’t have dozens of books on hand. How would they get them? What if they ran out of reading material? Self-quarantine makes reading more important than ever. Putting myself in their shoes, anxiety crept in. How would I survive with nothing to read?

I realize there are many free e-books available, but not everyone has (or wants) an e-reader. So what about free print books?

I love “free little libraries” placed around the community. They're like little birdhouses perched in front yards, offering nourishing food for our spirits. But I would need a huge bookshelf to accommodate my offerings. Not only was building my own free little library impractical, but people shouldn’t congregate because of the virus, anyway.

So, I devised a free virtual bookstore.

I can’t pay shipping costs, so I’ve offered books to people in my community. To make the process as easy as possible, I created a website, PopUpBookStop.org, where I’ve listed the books available. I posted a public-service announcement on my NextDoor neighborhood website with the details.

People choose the titles they want via the website contact form. I then bundle their books, send them an email with pickup instructions, and place the books on a shelf in front of my house. Safe, no-contact book adoption!

I’m asking if others, too, might be interested in donating their excess books through the website. I hope this idea spreads further throughout our communities. Readers love books, and most book-lovers want to share their passion for reading with others.

If your bookshelves are overflowing with titles you’ve already read, what better way to spread the joy than to donate them to others who’d love them? Especially during these strange and dangerous times, we need the magic of books more than ever.

K.L. Romo writes about life on the fringe: Teetering dangerously on the edge is more interesting than standing safely in the middle. She is passionate about women’s issues and loves noisy clocks and fuzzy blankets but HATES the word normal. Find her on Twitter at @klromo and Instagram at @k.l.romo.

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