Piles of fun – the person piling books throughout NYC April 5, 2016 – Posted in: Blog, Books, Feature – Tags: , , , , ,

Shaheryar Malik emptied his residence of books by placing them in large heaps in public areas throughout Manhattan. Why did he do it – and what happened next?

books in elevator

A stack on the elevator of an Upper West Side business tower. Picture: Dani Yim

Think about getting rid of your whole library and beginning afresh. That is precisely what Mr. Malik has achieved, in as dramatic a fashion as possible.

About an year ago, he determined he would leave stacks of about forty of his books in a number of public areas in New York until he was left with none. Eight times over, he piled them up in locations such as the the High Line, the Brooklyn Bridge, or a subway platform, and simply walked away.

He has no idea what occurred next, nor does he wish to, as the entire point of this experiment was to avoid a digital trace (beyond one photograph for each stack).

books on swings

Harlem playground – Books on a swing. Picture: Dani Yim

He needed the experience to be reserved for those who had been there at that very second, he explained. The books ranged from gardening guides to novels to photography and the fall of the Third Reich to fiction. He would put the tomes with the most unusual titles on top, such as The Decision Book: 50 Models for Strategic Thinking, or Physics for You, which has “such a lovely illustration on the cover”, he says.

This began a year in the past, when Malik, an art director originally from London, walked over the Brooklyn Bridge and got the urge to take a selfie. “Then I stopped and thought: ‘Instead of taking the image that has been taken hundreds of thousands of times, I’m going to share something completely different with the world.’

“A book moves you, annoys you, touches you, annoys you. You’re on the Brooklyn Bridge, how about you transform your self by travelling to this other world?”

Books in the middle of Brooklyn Bridge.

Books in the middle of Brooklyn Bridge. Picture: Dani Yim

Would people bump into the stacks, ignore the stacks, see them as pile of garbage? He has no idea what the immediate reactions have been, because he does not stick around. “I would be really anxious if I did.” Nevertheless, he did leave bookmarks along with his e-mail address inside the books, and he has received more than 60 emails from individuals in thirty countries to date.

piling books

A footbridge above a highway close to the Washington Bridge, near Manhattan’s upper edge. Picture Dani Yim

Now with empty shelves, he feels “lifted”. “I’ve given away something, however I’ve never really left them. What you have read becomes you and stays in you, and now they carry on and get extra lives. A lady in Holland said she’d left it on a train there for another person to pick it up.”

books in park

Books on the Lower West Side’s High Line. Picture: Dani Yim