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Mark Twain once said, “He who hasn’t read has no advantage over someone who can’t read.” I think that is a rather catchy quote.

Whenever I meet friends again after a long time, I ask them what they are reading right then. In 4 out of 5 cases, the answer is something along the lines of, “Nothing right now, I fear. I just don’t seem to get around to it.” Does that sound familiar? I’m sure it does. I’m guilty of it as well. The thing I find fascinating is that 5 out of 5 people tell me they would like to read more. They just don’t have the time for it.

What could be so important that you don’t get around to reading, though? Mark Twain would be turning in his grave! The most popular “excuses” include work, family, and/or lack of energy. Netflix often seems the easier alternative. Once again, the same goes for me as well. Few, if any, people tell me that they don’t have anything to read, however. It’d also surprise me, since the abundant book boxes are one of the absolute highlights of my life in the urban area of Düsseldorf.

You’ll often discover them out of nowhere as you are walking. They are about 1 m wide, 2 m tall, and 50 cm deep. To make a bad pun, there is much more depth in the boxes than those 50 cm would suggest. Most of them look alike in Düsseldorf. Their current generation have a slightly golden sheen. Some are tidier than others, but they all have a lot of books inside. I guess it’s about 300 to 500 books a piece.

They offer virtually everything, from Programming for Dummies to Nora Roberts and “The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared”. Books in foreign languages and literature on just about any subject can be found there, too. If we didn’t have such a great university in Düsseldorf and if there were no YouTube, the book boxes would give us an opportunity to complete an IT self-study. We could also all get fluent in French. These are just two of the countless options the world of books offers us.

Let me get nerdy for a moment, and maybe a bit weird. When we were looking for a new flat in Düsseldorf two years ago and weren’t quite sure which district was suitable, we went looking inside the neighbourhood book boxes to see if there were any good books (English or newer literature) for us and then determined whether there were any like-minded people in the area. We found a crowd to match us at Hermannplatz in Flingern.

I would love to include a current map with the locations of the boxes in this post. Alas, there does not seem to be one. There are only some outdated maps online, many of them showing boxes that are no longer there. I would recommend that you walk around your neighbourhood with your eyes open or ask the bookworms in your area. You’ll likely find them at major intersections or larger squares.

In case you’re wondering what I’m reading right now: It’s Rutger Bregman “Humankind: A Hopeful History” I can wholeheartedlyrecommend it.

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