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What Would Jane Read? Episode 24: LFL#7649, Columbus, Ohio

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What Would Jane Read? Episode 24
...in Which Action Figure Jane Austen
Goes to an Old-Fashioned Place
And Finds a Newfangled Novel

ACTION FIGURE JANE AUSTEN and I had a bit of trouble locating Little Free Library #7649. It's on East Sycamore Street in Columbus, Ohio, in a charming old neighborhood with brick roads and historic buildings, a little south of I-70. Neither Jane nor I had ever been to that part of Columbus. In fact, Jane had never been to Columbus at all, and I had never spent much time there. When we finally reached the Little Free Library, there were no parking spaces in sight. In the end, we decided just to park on the street near the book box, despite the absence of legal parking spaces, and resolved to keep our visit brief.

The first thing you'll notice about this Little Free Library is that it's made from a repurposed old milk box. When I was small, I used to play with a box like this on my grandmother's porch. In her town, homeowners had their milk delivered, a custom that used to be common but died out years earlier in the parts of the country where I grew up. In my grandmother's town, the practice had persisted into my own childhood. The milk truck driver would leave each family's order on the porch in a galvanized metal box like this one that now holds books, completely lactose-free. In the closeup shot, you can see the styrofoam-like insulation that kept the milk bottles cold.

I love Little Free Libraries made from recycled objects. Some stewards are so resourceful! And Jane, who is sometimes appalled by modern Americans' propensity for throwing out large numbers of still-useful objects instead of reusing them, was glad to see it, too, and pronounced the idea exemplary. When it was used for milk, the box would have sat closed with its lid on top. In its new life as a Little Free Library, the box is turned on its side and mounted with the lid in front, as a door, with a knob attached at front.

Jane remarked on the wonderful purple and yellow flowers growing at the base of the box's post and the lovely painted vines on the box itself. "To sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment," she told me. But even the wonders of nature can be improved upon by the addition of excellent read materials, so I suggested she select a book from the small collection in the Little Free Library.

Jane's choice: Gray Mountain, by John Grisham. Like most of his books, this one is a legal thriller. Jane was curious about its protagonist, a young lawyer named Samantha who works for a Wall Street firm at the start of the book. After she is laid off, she becomes a volunteer at a legal aid clinic in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, dispensing free legal advice to the disadvantaged, and finds herself embroiled in dangerous litigation against the coal-mining industry.

Jane is sensing a theme here: the juxtaposition of old and new. A Regency Era novelist travels to 2015 and visits an old milk box remade as a new book box in a historic neighborhood of a modern city, and discovers a book about a modern lawyer who travels to a backwoods Appalachian town that feels like it escaped from a previous century. Maybe Jane will have to write a new novel about this....

Speaking of the law, our Prius's parking space wasn't getting any more legal as we lingered, so Jane and I had to be on our way. But the words painted on the front of the Little Free Library said, "Free Books. Take 1. Give 1." And Jane hadn't yet given a book to the small collection. She decided not to take the Grisham book home with her; the book box wasn't as full as we would have liked, and she didn't want to deplete it further. But she did donate a copy of Northanger Abbey before we climbed back into the car and moved on to the next Little Free Library.

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#23 - Greenville, SC - #1277
#22 - Lexington, VA - #2321
#21 - Wilmington, DE - #2966
#19 - Quinton, VA - #11989
#18 Wheaton, IL - not numbered
#17 Homewood, IL - #14784
#16 Lafayette, IN - #5514
#15 Taylors, SC - #12893
#14 Greenville, SC - #1368
#13 Baltimore, MD - #9459
#12 Baltimore, MD - #1521
#11 Kings Mountain, NC - #5009
#10 Spartanburg, SC - #12365
#9 Alexandria, VA - #10924
#8 Simpsonville, SC - #9761
#7 Alexandria, VA - not numbered
#6 Alexandria, VA - #4289
#5 Kannapolis, NC - #7277
#4 Newark, DE - #5837
#3 Arlington, VA - #10419
#2 Alexandria, VA - #5491
#1 Alexandria, VA (my own LFL) - #9136

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