In a time when the economy is weak and many businesses are tightening their belts, Ben LeRoy, publisher of Tyrus Books, has been going in the opposite direction. He’s been giving free books to anyone who asks. He’d pick an hour or two out of a random day and announce on Twitter (follow here if you don’t already) that he’d take requests during that time for anything from Tyrus’s catalogue of dark crime fiction. If he has copies available (finished books, not ARCs), he’ll send them to you for free. Yes, that’s plural because you can ask for more than one.
Why is LeRoy doing this? He asks for nothing in return, no reviews, no please-tell-your-friends-about-us, nothing. A recent tweet said, “Just read. That’s all I care about.” That moved me deeply and is why I felt the need to write this.
There were no libraries in Vietnam during my childhood. I remember how I’d walk to a nearby store that rented books by asking customers for a deposit. If patrons returned the book in good condition, the store would refund their money, minus a small rental fee.
This may sound fair except I was a small child with no money of my own. I’d try to barter with the store owner—can I leave my shoes as collateral? How about my school bag? The shop owner would laugh at me but there were few things I wouldn’t have swapped for the chance to read.
More than 30 years and 10,000 miles removed, that feeling hasn’t changed. So, for me to get free books from Tyrus with no questions asked and no strings attached? It’s like receiving…I’m not sure I have the right words. Insert gold, money, food, water, life—whatever’s most precious to you—and you’ll get the idea. I don’t understand such generosity but I don’t have to. I can just be thankful there are people like LeRoy keeping literacy alive while allowing that long-ago girl to keep her shoes.