There is a project sweeping Europe which gets people reading and thinking outside the box. 1010 Ways to Buy Without Money is an admirably straightforward title and concept and perhaps one day soon it will arrive in the UK. In preparation for that day, I began considering the price I would set for my favourite books in the event that money was not an option. Rather, one must pay for the text with little kindnesses, a display of friendliness, perhaps bravery? The possibilities are as many as the number of books in this world which are out there currently looking for a home. As the site says; ‘just for waking up every morning, we all have an enormous capital that travels with us’, and sometimes (especially when monetary capital is running low) it pays to think about all the far more valuable things you can use to earn the gift of a good read.
1) Alice in Wonderland
The price for a copy of Alice in Wonderland would certainly be to throw a tea party for some deserving mad hatters. Bonus points if one person ends up leaving, calling it the ‘stupidest tea party’ they had ever been to. If the Dormouse falls asleep, though, just leave him be. 6pm is a perfectly reasonable siesta time.
2) Master and Margarita
With the number of mysterious stories being told in this novel, the price to share in the madness would be to tell a tale of your own. It doesn’t need talking cats, witches on broomsticks and the devil in Moscow necessarily, but it does need a twist and at least a little strangeness.
Austen created Emma as the character ‘whom no one but myself will much like’. Headstrong and self-absorbed, she reminds us to think about what we can do for others for a change, not unlike this project. Therefore, the cost of a copy is to leave notes on the bus, in a library book, in a restaurant menu, to remind someone to have a lovely day and keep smiling. Then you are sure to be ready to wile away a few hours with Emma and her delightfully misguided fancies.
4) The Great Gatsby
Wouldn’t The Great Gatsby have been an entirely different novel if all the protagonists didn’t have those handy social links joining them all together? The cost of a copy is to introduce yourself to someone new. In class, in the office, in the local pub… who knows who you might become best friends with? They might just hold the key to parties of a scale Jay Gatsby could only dream of. And if it turns out to be a short-lived friendship then you’ll have all the more time to get reading. Nothing to lose.
5. The Greek Myths
This is a book that I love going back to. The Greeks were the original great storytellers and if you keep an eye on the detail, you start to see how legends have continued to infiltrate our imaginations. The plots persist in today’s films and books; only slightly altered under a modern guise, and 2000 year old character traits return over and over again. In order to get your hands on a copy of this book, you would need to;
- Slay the Nemean Lion.
- Slay the nine-headed Lernaean Hydra.
- Capture the Ceryneian Hind.
- Capture the Erymanthian Boar.
- Clean the Augean stables in a single day.
- Slay the Stymphalian Birds.
- Capture the Cretan Bull.
Or perhaps this is all getting a little carried away. Nonetheless, it is a thought provoking project to get people reading and thinking about how they can get involved with the people around them. I look forward to the day that it pops up in Glasgow. What would you value higher than money? What would you do for a book that money couldn’t buy?