One of my favorite places to spend time in is a used bookstore. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t have any real beef with a Barnes and Noble, but there is a sort of magic that exists on the shelves of a used bookstore. When we lived in Florida, we made regular pilgrimages to Chamblin Bookmine, which is still, up to this point, THE pinnacle of a used book store. If you ever happen to be in Jacksonville, drop by this place. I would highly recommend leaving your schedule open for the remainder of your day, however, as you will never be so happy to get lost in a store.
On our way to see “The Hobbit” this past Sunday afternoon, we swung by Bookman’s here in Tucson because I wanted to check the Cormac McCarthy section and see if, by some miraculous turn of good luck, they had a used copy of “Child of God” available. Alas, it was not to be. The “McCarthy” shelf only contained multiple copies of “The Road” along with the entire Border trilogy in all shapes and sizes. I own these already and have read “The Road” three times now. Something that DID jump out, however, was one particular copy of “All The Pretty Horses”.
What caught my eye was a hardback with some obvious wrinkling in the spine and the dust cover missing. This particular book was placed in such a way that it almost appeared as a bookend for this particular shelf. I reached up to take it from the shelf and the first page I opened to had a paragraph highlighted. I flipped a couple pages forward and came across handwritten notes. I love handwritten notes inside used books. They are there for a specific reason. Some that I’ve seen were easier than others to understand, but I love seeing them regardless. This book had been READ. There were so many notes and highlights that it was difficult to flip more than two or three pages without finding another set of writings that were not placed there by Mr McCarthy himself.
I mentioned to my wife that it’d be cool to buy the book just for the scrawled thoughts of its previous owner and she egged me on with a “Well get it then!“ but it didn’t feel like I would get as much from it. I love the book already. Why not let someone who has never read “All The Pretty Horses” see those notes and take something from the book they may not have otherwise been privy to. Although an author has a point they’re attempting to convey with their writing, sometimes the meat and potatoes of the tale is found in the discussion OUTSIDE of it.
Leaving the McCarthy shelf a tad bit dejected (I really want to read Child of God before James Franco gets it up on the bigscreen), I headed over to another favorite author’s section; Mr Nick Hornby. Hornby has written several books I’ve enjoyed, but none more so than “High Fidelity”. I haven’t read him in quite awhile, even though I’m aware he has released a couple new books. I arrived to his shelf and the first book I saw was “Slam”. Now before talking about what exactly I found in “Slam”, I must take you on a journey to another tangent.
I’ve never been a guy who sticks to the conventional bookmark. I will use any slip of paper that happens to be nearby me when finding a good stopping point. That being said, I have used my airline boarding pass multiple times before. In the past, I’ve used the receipt for the book I purchased, a torn piece of toilet paper, a wrapper from the candy bar I snagged from the vending machine, whatever is near me is fair game. Seriously. So it’s funny, to me anyway, when I see someone else who does the same thing. I was looking through the used book section of Hastings a couple years back and came across a paperback copy of “Up In The Air” that had an airline ticket in it. Perhaps it’s just my own quirkiness, but I found it incredibly ironic that a tale of a man in a perpetual state of travel would have a bookmark of an airline ticket in it. Granted, I have not read the book yet but I have seen the movie two or three times now and think it’s one of George Clooney‘s best performances to date.
So what did I see inside the front cover of “Slam”? An airline boarding pass! It was on a flight LEAVING from Tucson. Standing there, I was wondering if the previous owner had purchased the book at the Tucson airport or another airport along her travels from Tucson. I wonder how long after her flight she finished the book. Did she finish it on her flight? Did she have a lengthy lay0ver in another airport and got a chunk of it read while waiting? Did she only read it while in flight or did she nap on the flight? Was she a quick reader? Or was it months later, after her travels, that she finished it? Did she consider it a throwaway level of book? Obviously it must not have been one of her favorites, as it’s now sitting on the shelf next to half a dozen copies of the same book.
So, I salute you “Renee” (the name was on the boarding pass, people) and all the other previous owners of the books I love. Even though we may not be reading the same book at any given time, I feel good knowing that someone else enjoyed something like I did.
What used bookstores do YOU recommend? Do you have a preference on used books or mega-bookstores? Thoughts in the comments!