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Making it last.

I was sitting in my favorite local coffee shop this past weekend when one of my favorite local coffee shop neighborhood friends stopped by as well. She sat down next to me as I was doing the crossword and pulled out the latest book she’d started reading. I don’t remember what it was, she wasn’t too sure about it either—she’d bought it on recommendation from one of the bookstore staff members and was none too keen on placing full faith in the reliability of said recommendation.

In any case, it was as she opened it up to the title page that I stopped her. There was an adorable stamp of one of those Victorian silhouette portraits and underneath, in simple block letters, it said “FROM THE LIBRARY OF [name redacted to protect the privacy of local coffee shop neighborhood friends].” I thought it was a great idea—not only to make sure that any person who may borrow or pick up the novel in the future would know to just whom to return it, but also as a mark of character.

One of my favorite things about used books—aside from the stories themselves—are the ownership markings, inscriptions, postcards that fall out, shopping lists and notes tucked away for safe keeping or bookmarking and promptly forgotten about. I have used books that I’ve bought solely for the inscription on the title page or for the personal notes scribbled therein. I don’t mean notes on the text—though if not too intrusive to my reading, those can be very fun, too—I mean the way you can just tell this book was owned, read, used and loved by someone before you. That the sentimentality and personality of a previous owner as well as the merit of the book itself can last for generations, too.

After exclaiming at my friend’s stamp, I vowed to get one of my own. I haven’t, yet, but it’s definitely on the list. My friend noted that one of her favorite things is adding her stamp to a book’s title page that already has a previous owner’s name, a library stamp, anything like that what have you. She called it a little catalogue of all the places the book has been and the people whose lives it has touched in any way—insignificant or otherwise. I thought it was a wonderful sentiment and agree wholeheartedly.

Old, used books are great for so many things, their “book smell,” the way they’re worn in, for possibly an outdated cover, but above all, it’s the reminder that many lives, not just yours as the current book’s keeper, can be touched by such a simple thing. What say you? Are you in the same camp or do you just hate any kind of mussing or marring on your literature? Go ahead, rant or wax poetic, Romantic, I’m all ears.

3 Responses to Making it last.

  1. D. C. DaCosta says:

    I’m always saddened when I obtain a used book that has a previous owner’s name, and especially sad when there’s an inscription like, “To Johnny on his twelfth birthday, with much love from Aunt Bertha”.

    You have to wonder whether Johnny ever read the book, whether he liked it, whether he liked Aunt Bertha, whether he ever thanked her, and where the two of them are now.

    Come to think of it…what an opening for a mystery story!

  2. Joelle says:

    Have you gotten a copy of S by JJ Abrams yet? I got it for Christmas. It’s so cool, but I haven’t started reading it yet. It’s just neat to own. http://www.powells.com/biblio/18-9780316201643-0 You have to buy it, it’s an experience, not just a book.

  3. Gill Avila says:

    I love old genre books in fantasy and science fiction, and I like autobiographies. My favorite is a 1938 hardback of My Double Life by Mary Sullivan, the first female detective on the NYPD. It’s signed and personalized by the author.

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