I moved this past year and in an effort not to kill myself, my husband and the nine amazing people who helped us move, I tried to weed out my books. It was horrible, but we only had ten boxes of books to move in the end. Which, trust me, is real success.
I love books. Love to be surrounded by books. I adore my full bookshelves preening with titles. Books are friends. They keep me company when I’m lonely, give me insight to myself and are conversation starters when company is over.
Most of my books are used because it’s ‘green’. But not really, that’s never why I bought used books. I’m just cheap. And used books have always had more to them than just a story. A story within a story, if you will.
Most of my books have some sort of ‘bookmark’ that I keep in them. A receipt, an airline ticket stub, a postcard, the free bookmark given by the used bookstore the book came from. They are a remembrance of the time I read the books.
As I weeded out my books this past year I gave away as many books as I could to good homes where I knew they would be happy. My neighbor who took several books brought one back. It was not a favorite book, but he thought perhaps the inscription on it was something I didn’t want to give away. It was quite lovely. A book given during a very difficult time in my life by a very good friend. I settled the book back among the others for that inscription alone.
Some of my books bear my name in big black letters on the entirety of the pages, declaring to and old set of roommates that these were MY books. I have books that are signed by authors, among my most prized is a copy of Fahrenheit 451 signed by Ray Bradbury and A Swiftly Tilting Planet signed by Madeline L’Engle. Two of my heroes.
Though if truth be told, I put just as much importance on books from friends and family with phrases like “We’ll always have Paris.” “This book make me think of you.” “Love Dad. Christmas ’95.” “Cheers!” and “I got you this book for your birthday because you asked for it. You’re so weird.”
Other books bear inscriptions from people I’ll never know or have never met. One reads “Dear Dan, I truly hope that one day we can be like these two characters and perhaps…. Love always, June.” I wasn’t sure if I really wanted the book at first, but after reading an inscription like that, I had to have it. I don’t know what came of Dan and June. Did he ever read the book? Did they become more? The inscription was yellowed and stained with time, surely someone held onto the book for a while until it ended up on the shelves of a used bookstore.
Another inscribed to “Sally, dream big dreams and you’ll never accomplish small things. Love Aunt E.” What did Sally dream? What did she go on to do? Could Aunt E have imparted a little more wisdom than that or did she feel that was enough?
I love the glimpse into someone’s life with just a few jotted lines on the inside of a book. It’s what makes me dig through old postcards in antique shops in the hope of finding cards with writing on them.
All of this has me thinking about another favorite website of mine. It’s called FOUND. This website is like voyeurism of the mundane. The folks of the website “Collect FOUND stuff: love letters, birthday cards, kids’ homework, to-do lists, ticket stubs, poetry on napkins, receipts, doodles—anything that gives a glimpse into someone else’s life.” And they post copies of these found items on line with notes of where they were found. It’s pretty entertaining, depressing, and strangely hopeful.
Take a gander if you have a chance, and in the meantime: “May you find peace, inspiration, and something to read in the bathroom.”