by KB Meniado
The idea behind Mensis Liber is simple: promote reading by giving away a free book every month. (In fact, I won one of the first giveaways—1Q84 by Haruki Murakami!) Since 2011, founder Kenna Marcelo has given away over 40 books to winners from all over the world. Enter the inside pages and discover how she got this idea and how it has changed her life so far!
Kenna Marcelo gives away free books. Visit her on Kenna Marcelo and Mensis Liber.
Hi, Kenna! This project was inspired by a book—Brian Krans’s A Constant Suicide, to be exact. How and when did the idea of Mensis Liber come to you?
I spent most of my time on Tumblr back in 2007 to 2012. I follow a lot of blogs about books, reading and interesting stuff and keep in touch with their authors. Prosthetic Knowledge is a blog I love and follow until this day. Richard, the blog owner, and I both like Milan Kundera, too. In 2011, I stumbled upon a A Constant Suicide quote. I tried hard to find the book in bookstores and eventually got hold of it through the author’s online bookstore.
I was going through really tough times then and that book helped me get through it. I’ve always loved reading and it has always helped me get over anything—from heartaches to boredom to life-altering decisions. A Constant Suicide is the book I consider as the one that made the most impact in my life, to this day. I thought, if this book changed my life, it could change others’ lives, too.
At the same time, when I was young and didn’t have enough money, buying books was not easy. Our public libraries or school libraries weren’t that good either. So I thought I should give away a free book every month. I’ve asked people what to call it, and it was Richard who thought of Mensis Liber which means “book of the month.”
A free book every month in the hopes of changing other people’s lives… what a goal! But how do you pick out a book?
I normally give away a book I personally recommend or have read. If I can’t think of a book, I rely on Twitter and Goodreads for recommendations.
Can you share some of your favorite Mensis Liber moments?
I have met people all over the world who are passionate about reading and books, which is amazing. I’ve given away signed books of Brian Krans, the author of A Constant Suicide. All his books! Brian has always been helpful with Mensis Liber, too. Another favorite blog of mine, Decoding Static, made a handmade cover for his Living Room Stories print.
People from all over the world! How do you build connections?
I rely heavily on social media. I work alone on Mensis Liber and it can sometimes be difficult to track the entries and remember when to post given that I have a full-time job. I also keep a database of the people who enter the contest and e-mail them surveys on how to improve the website and what they want to have.
What are your plans for Mensis Liber?
Sometimes I give away more than one book a month, which is what I want to do on a regular basis. I want to give away at least one book a week. I also want to do a book club similar to 24 Hour Book Club but based here in Dubai.
You’re based in Dubai. Is the habit of reading any different there?
Reading is an escape. It’s also a way to travel without having to move. Books are my companion. I fell in love with reading at school. Unfortunately, while my parents encouraged reading, they would rather have me read technical books rather than fictional ones. Libraries back home were pretty useless, for lack of a better word. I don’t really know how to differentiate the readers’ landscape in Dubai and back home. Dubai has great public libraries and we get access to almost all books from different parts of the world. I did, however, meet more bibliophiles here than back home.
I did an interview with Readmill before, you can read it here.
Care to share your thoughts about people who read?
I’ve always thought readers are really awesome people. It doesn’t matter what they read. But, for me, people who read love life.
What is your favorite book and why?
The Little Prince is my favorite book. I read it when I was 10, I think, and I re-read it from time to time and I always learn something new from it. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius is another favorite. These two books, I need to have wherever I go.
“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
I try to live my life by that.
Who is your favorite author and why?
Another hard one. I can’t pick only one. My favorite authors are Milan Kundera, Brian Krans and John Green and recently, Rainbow Rowell (read Kenna’s review of Landline here).
Milan Kundera is an immortal. I read his books and find myself wishing it was me who wrote them instead. He taught me a lot and made me care less about superficial things. The Unbearable Lightness of Being is another one of my favorites. It was written years before I was born but it made perfect sense to me. It helped me know more about myself. It helped me find me.
Brian Krans is an amazing writer as well. I love his writing style. To me, he writes like Chuck Palahniuk, Hunter S. Thompson, Charles Bukowski and John Green, all in one (just my opinion). If he writes about roller-blading, I will read it even if I’m not into roller-blading.
John Green and Rainbow Rowell are good at making you feel emotions you’re not familiar with. They write about things in an easy-to-read manner but can still make you think deep. Or at least, that’s what they do to me.
Your favorite reading/writing-related quote?
“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”—Haruki Murakami