Aug 11

An iphone app to find books by or about people of color; a listener asks, “is it stealing?” and new books by Alex Kershaw and Jennifer McMahon.


We were thrilled to learn about We Read Too, an iphone app that was developed by Kaya Thomas,  a young woman who couldn’t find books with characters that reminded her of herself. The app is a great resource for booksellers, librarians, teachers and readers who want to discover literary works written by authors of colors with characters of colors that don’t fall into stereotypes.

Find We Read Too in the iOS app store.

We Read Too on Facebook


 audiobooksAudiobook of the week (05:13)


SerenaSerena by Ron Rash, narrated by Phil Gigante, is my pick for this week’s Audiobook of the Week.

Special thanks to for sponsoring this episode of Books on the Nightstand. allows you to listen to over 60,000 audiobooks, instantly, wherever you are, and the first one is free. Download or stream any book directly to your Apple or Android device. Sign up for a free 30-day trial and free audiobook download by going to


A listener writes in with an ethical dilemma (10:22)

We received an email from Becky:

I have been a longtime fan and listener of your podcast and I recently took a book and I’m wondering if you would consider this stealing or not. . . 
I’m a hospice physician and do home visits to see patients. I visited a patient who lived in an apt building where you had to be buzzed in. I went up to the 2nd floor where my patient lived and in an open alcove next to the elevator was a library of perhaps 100 – 200 books. . . 
After the visit I perused the shelves and there was a lot of mass market stuff plus classics plus everything in between. I ended up taking an Everyman’s library edition of “The Tin Drum” by Gunter Grass. I took it b/c it was a classic that I thought I should read, and also I felt it was probably sthg that was not in high demand so I felt less guilty about taking it, vs. some current best seller. . . I will say that I was slightly influenced to take the book  b/c of all of your talk on the podcast about how many books are pulped, etc. . . so if I did wrong then it’s all your fault! Ha! just kidding. . . 
The other doctor that I work with was appalled at my action and considered that it was definitely stealing. . . maybe she is right?! What do you think?? 
Thanks for all your great work on the podcast!
Michael and I discuss this dilemma, and though we both agree it’s not black and white, we do fall on somewhat different sides of the gray area. Please let us know your thoughts. Was it stealing? Does it matter that it was a classic and not a more popular title? What would you have done?
More information on Little Free Libraries here. Please consider putting one up in your community.

Two books we can’t wait for you to read (21:38):


Avenue of Spies   The Night Sister


Michael talks about Avenue of Spies by Alex Kershaw, about an American doctor’s experience in Nazi-occupied Paris. He and his family supported the Resistance, all the while being surrounded by in his neighborhood by some of the most well-known Nazis. It’s a propulsive read, for those who love narrative nonfiction.
I highly recommend The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon, which is compelling and so creepy. I flew through it in two days. We travel back and forth in time, all the while learning about events that happen at a roadside motel in rural Vermont. There’s a murder, two sets of sisters, things that go bump in the night, and a young girl who is obsessed with director Alfred Hitchcock and dreams of going to Hollywood to become a star.


  • Carol Kubala

    Kaya’s dilemma is not black and white as Ann said but I truly wouldn’t
    call this stealing, at least in the usual definition of the word. The
    books seem meant to share.
    When my mom lived in a congregate care facility they had a book case of books to share on each floor. Though my mom could have picked up a book for me, I just asked the the facility head if I could take a book and then bring another the next time I visited. That was fine with them.
    I stopped at a RV park in Florida last winter just to check out pricing. They had a whole room of books, a little library. I asked if they’d mind if I browsed and offered to pay for a paperback as I needed something to read. They graciously said go
    ahead and not to worry about a donation.
    I think my point here is that asking made me feel “not guilty” and gave the “owners” the opportunity to say yes or decline.
    Ann’s suggestion that signage would make this much clearer is a good one.
    “For Residents Only” or “Please Feel Free to Take a Book” would help
    those visiting.

    • As always, a calm and well-reasoned post. Thank you, Carol!

  • dr_smartypants

    hi guys – i take care of a couple of lending libraries – one at my workplace and another at the local women’s shelter. also – many of the guesthouses across europe have small libraries in their public spaces. it is definitely a growing trend! my thoughts on all these are that as soon as you donate a book to such a library you should think of it as truly donated and not expect it to be there later. people are certainly free to take books and not return them or pass them on to another friend or lending library. i think the hospice worker who wrote in to the website was absolutely in her rights to take the book, and should feel free to donate it at the next lending library she comes across. imagine a world with lending libraries in every work space, park, museum or shared public space. everyone would be taking and donating books here and there, constantly mixing things up and infusing all the libraries with fresh material. fabulous. the only thing i frown on is when people take books from lending libraries and then sell them online. that is definitely a no no. i think if lending libraries have an expectation that books will be returned, there needs to be appropriate signage. otherwise, it is fair game.

    by the way – for the both of the libraries that i administer, donations always far outweigh the removals of books. i am constantly culling the lot and sending the extras overseas to troops, to veterans’ facilities or donating to local charity shops. readers tend to be generous and want to share a good read with others.



    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences, Pam. And thank you for caring for a few lending libraries!

  • tcheer4life

    My cousin, Nancy is able to pick up books from two places where people consciously drop books. Her train stop and in her complex’s utility room. In both places anyone who wants to get rid of books (at the complex it’s anything – furniture, clothes, etc.) just leaves the books at the designated spot. At the train stop there is no sign, but it is definitely a book stand.
    In the library where I work, we have a table where anything we put there is free.

    I don’t think Becky was stealing, but would encourage her to take a book to replace the one she took next time she visits that patient.

  • KilianMetcalf

    I can’t see the situation as stealing. The books are put out in a public space for anyone to take. I have taken books and given books back in many such places and never had a quiver of conscience. It would be a nice gesture for the physician to take some books to donate to the space the next time she visits, but not required.

    The apartment complex where I live used to have bookshelves in the laundry area that were removed and not replaced when the area was remodeled. We were told that corporate management wanted all their properties to be the same, and ours was the only property with the bookshelves. The residents put up such a howl that they backed off, and the bookshelves are coming back.

  • Tracy Slater

    Agree that a sign would have made Becky’s dilemma a little clearer. LOVE how the discussion swerved into a talk about setting up free libraries though. I live in Japan and am sitting here trying to figure out how to set one up here for people who want to read in English! PS. Also loved Ann’s description of The Night Sisters and the imagery of the creaky floorboards being like a shifty narrative.

    • Tracy, are Little Free Libraries a thing on Japan? Your idea is so great!

      • Tracy Slater

        Hey, never even realized there was this reply from you Ann until I went to comment on something else! So sorry not to answer sooner. As far as I know, LFLs don’t exist at all in Japan. Although I will admit that, at our local mall in greater Tokyo, when I take the mini to the playspace there, we get *lots* of attention from the motivated Tokyo mamas who want their little ones to befriend a “hafu” (1/2 Japanese, 1/2 American) child so their own kids can learn English. So perhaps we are seen as a sort of walking little free library. Ha!

        Best to you, Michael, and the entire BOTNs tribe!

  • LJ Snow

    I don’t think it’s intentional stealing. But maybe a replacement book would ease your conscience.

  • Esther

    I would not have taken it unless there was a sign that clearly stated the books were there for anyone who wanted them.

    First of all, I would never do anything that would reflect poorly on my employer or on my professional demeanor. She was in the building in a professional capacity, as a representative of the hospice. What if someone saw her take the book and knew who she was? How would that reflect on the hospice, on her professionalism as a physician?

    Also, I can afford to buy any book I want, and I assume so can she. I would not feel right taking a book that I could easily pay for and possibly deprive someone of the pleasure of reading it who “couldn’t” afford it.

    My father was in a nursing home before he passed away, and there were bookshelves filled with books. I could easily have taken one and no one would ever have known but I would never do it, not without asking first. That’s just the way I am. It’s common courtesy. If I wanted the book that badly, I would have found someone to ask whether it was OK to take it.

    Granted, this is not the biggest sin in the world. Stealing is too harsh a word. I’m sure no one in the building cares that she took the book. It’s not like she took it from the patient’s apartment or shoplifted it from a bookstore. It was in a common area of the building and there weren’t any signs. I can understand why she might have felt free to take it. So I don’t want to make too much of this.

    But it’s not something I would ever feel comfortable doing.

  • Elizabeth

    I live in the Boston area have access to several wonderful free community bookshelves (‘libraries’) around my town. A couple of the old telephone booths on my walk to work have been used – a give and take situation: Also, the gym has a community bookshelf where you can leave and take books – found several that I enjoyed there too!

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