Rescuing and Running with Books

I rescue books on the run and give them a home. I am a bibliophile.

Miriam Diaz-Gilbert
Sep 24 · 6 min read
Photo by Mario Klassen on Unsplash

I Cannot Live Without Books

Thomas Jefferson wrote, “I cannot live without books.”

And I would add

I love books so much that I rescue them from people’s curbside trash during my training runs. I have literally run home with books.

One day during a long training run, I stumbled upon eight hardcover Children’s Classic books, published between 1950 and 1956, in mint condition. They were in a box with other books on the side of the road.

I piled and cradled them in my arms and walked a mile to my home. I drove back and piled more books in my mini-van.

Books on the Run

My encounter with rescuing and collecting books abandoned on the side of the road and lawns began one summer day in 2008.

With about two miles left in my training run, I came across a huge box labeled “free books.” My running feet came to a screeching halt and my eyes nearly came out of my sockets in disbelief.

The box was brimming with Reader’s Digest condensed books. They looked brand new.

I knocked on the homeowner’s door to ask if I could take them all. She said absolutely. I let her know I would come back later to pick them up in my car.

When I returned a few hours later to load up my mini-van, she had another box filled more Reader’s Digest books for me.

I took home 28 books. They were her father’s books. He never read one book!

My collection of rescued Reader’s Digest books.

A couple of years later during a training run, I came across two boxes filled with books.

I could hardly believe my eyes — more Reader’s Digest condensed books!

I ran home as fast as I could, climbed in my car, and raced back to load the trunk of my car.

Today 94 rescued Reader’s Digest condensed books, from 1954–2003, line an entire bookcase of their own in the living room.

Please, No More Books

A couple of summers ago during another training run, my husband and I ran into a sign that read “free books.” Tons of free books covered a spacious lawn.

I could hardly contain myself.

My less than enthusiastic husband is thinking, “Please, no more books. We have no room for them.”

I was in heaven! I plucked a few books.

My husband followed and together we ran home with books in hand. We then jumped in the car, drove back, and rescued a total of 54 books.

The books include a brand new, and almost complete set of the Zohar, a 23-volume set of books dedicated to Jewish mysticism, and understanding the universe, the secrets of the Bible, and life.

The set, published in 2003, is missing book 3 and book 6. All but two of the books are still wrapped in cellophane. They have never been read.

One day I will read them all. As one who teaches theology/religious studies, this first ever, unabridged English translation of the Zohar certainly enhances my library of theology books.

I Am a Bibliophile

I still have my 1969 copy of Paul Gallico’s sentimental The Snow Goose, required reading in sixth grade. I have my 1965 paperback copy of Claude Brown’s Manchild in the Promised Land, required summer reading in seventh grade.

The first used book I ever bought is a 1952, revised standard edition of The Holy Bible. I paid fifty cents. I bought it while in college at the library’s used book sale.

Because of my love for books, my husband gave me Nicolas Basbanes’s A Gentle Madness, a Valentine’s Day gift in 1995. It’s a fascinating book about bibliophiles through out the centuries and their impulse to collect books.

The oldest book in my collection of rescued books is Chronicles of England, France, and Spain, published in 1880. I have The Works of Shakespeare: Comedies — the pictorial edition published in 1900.

I have a 1943 edition of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, one of my favorite books.

An inscription in a 1958 copy of Doctor Zhivago reads: “Christmas 1958 for Daddy with love, Mimi & John.” I smiled when I read this. My nickname is Mim and my husband is Jon.

In volume three of a 1958 Reader’s Digest condensed book, I found dried rose petals and a handwritten note in a small envelope from a florist.

The stork and baby notecard reads, “Love your husband.” The dry roses, note and envelope addressed to the new mom at a local hospital tucked all these years between pages 222 and 223 of Rough Road Home.

In his 1998 memoir, The Books in My Life, British writer Colin Wilson shares that he has 20,000 books in his home. I found a signed copy of this book at a used book sale at our local library in 2011. I paid a dollar.

After reading Wilson’s book, I counted the books in my house. I counted 217 books in the bedroom, 206 in the living room, and 234 in our reading room/tiny library.

Today, our small abode is home to over 1,200 books, including my own book, English for Pharmacy Writing and Oral Communication, published in 2008.

This summer I added How to Survive Your Freshman Year and Chicken Soup for the Soul — Running for Good. I’m a contributor in both books.

Rescue Books and Give Them a New Home

I love everything about books. I love the smell of old and new books and turning the pages. I like to buy books.

I enjoy reading and reviewing books. I love spending hours at book festivals. I enjoy meeting authors, buying their books, and adding their signed books to my collection.

I have signed books from authors whose books I’ve reviewed or whom I’ve met at running events, book festivals, and book talks including Dean Karnazes, Christopher McDougall, Bart Yasso, Charlie Engle, Scott Jurek, Bill Watts, Tavis Smiley, Lisa Thomas-Laury, Matt Katz, Rosario Ferré, Esmeralda Santiago, Bryan Batt, Soraida Santiago, Jennifer Sands, and Geffrey B. Kelly.

Running with rescued books. Photo by Jon Gilbert

But most of all, I love rescuing books of any kind from the side of the road, people’s trash, spacious lawns, and boxes that invite you to give them new life and a new home.

As Marcus Tullius Cicero once wrote, “A home without books is a body without soul.”

Miriam Diaz-Gilbert (aka Miriam Gilbert) has been rescuing books over 10 years. I am a bibliophile and author working on my second book — my memoir. I am a theology/religious studies adjunct professor. I have been running over 30 years. I am training for my 27th ultramarathon — Across the Years 48 hour ultra. I invite you to visit my website. Thank you for sharing my story.

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Miriam Diaz-Gilbert

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The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment.

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