I just got back from the post office where I mailed six packages of books, all to people I don't know.
This is a Bookcrossing thing.
Bookcrossing http://www.bookcrossing.com is a place to keep track of books you've read (or owned, or that have come into your hands) by registering them and then journaling what happens to them. You can keep them (permanent collection), you can reserve them, and you can list them as available. And, you can release them.
Books can be released into the wild. Wild releasing is when you take a book you have, register it (so it has a Bookcrossing ID number), and then leave it somewhere for someone else to find, like maybe in a coffee shop or on a park bench.
A controlled release is when you know who will be the recipient of your book(s), and you are mailing them or perhaps hand delivering them to a specific person. This is what I did today. Several of the packages were RABCK's, (Random Acts of Bookcrossing Kindness), where we looked at books we were done with (a Scott Turow, Harry Dolan's Bad Things Happen, and audio version of Muriel Barbery's Gourmet Rhapsody, Sarah Vowell, The Wordy Shipmates, to name a few), searched wishlists on Bookcrossing, checked another site to get addresses, and sent them to people who want them. They do not know that they are coming.
It is delightful to be a recipient of an RABCK. And, we feel as though we've done a good deed when we send books off to someone else. When they are received, people journal that they've received them and are grateful and pleased. So maybe our good deeds aren't purely altruistic in intent. I love being able to track where books go and have gone and what others think of them. My book that's traveled the farthest? I took Nicole Mones's book, A Cup of Light, to Indonesia from the U.S. and (wild) released it there. It got 'caught' and someone took it to Italy.
One of the books I sent off today was Robert Goolrick's A Reliable Wife, one I'd been wanting to read for months. That book is part of a bookring. In a bookring, one person who has the book posts that they are willing to make it into a ring. Interested parties sign up, and the bookring 'host' then determines who gets it first, second, and so on. When it arrives, bookring participants are expected to journal that they received the book, read the book, journal that they read it and what they thought of it, then contact the next person in the ring and send it on its merry way. (By the way I really liked A Reliable Wife...kind of gothic and mysterious and haunting. This may be a book that sticks with me for a while...)
One of the downsides? The next person to receive A Reliable Wife lived in the United Kingdom, which is one of, if not THE most expensive places to send books from here. I could have bought the book for less than I paid to send it. (You can opt not to send to other countries, or whether or not to participate in bookrings at all. It's fairly reasonable to mail books within the U.S., especially if media mail is used.)
The very best thing about Bookcrossing? It's where I met my partner. Bookcrossers meet every month or so in this area and have for years. I attended many a Bookcrossing gathering, and so got to meet some of my fellow Bookcrossers. Therapist was at one of the meetings several years ago. We have been together now for several years.
Can I promise that you'll meet the love of your life at a Bookcrossing meeting? Well, no. However I CAN say that with Bookcrossing you'll very likely enjoy your books' traveling adventures, which are in addition to the adventures you already find from books on the pages inside.