I donated my copy of Gone With the Wind (Margaret Mitchell), and now I’d really like it back. Not necessarily to read it cover to cover – I don’t think I have it in me to do so again – but because I remember liking the feel of it. Some books just contain nostalgia, or something sentimental, or something that hits you and you’re not really sure why. It hits you in a kind of small way, but if you really dig in, turns out it’s in a big way.
Gone With the Wind wasn’t an overly enjoyable story, but I remember buying it secondhand for a few dollars and loving it if only for that reason. I’d been wanting to read it for a long time, and the satisfaction of a cheap buy was enough to keep me happy for weeks.
The tattered cover, peeling and curling at the edges, contained history, in and outside of the story. I wanted to devour it all.
As much as new books are beautiful in their own right, there is something to be said for a secondhand book that allows you to throw it around, stuff it inside a bag, and crinkle the pages with reckless abandon. These paperbacks become the books taken to the beach, to school, on holidays, in the bath. It doesn’t matter if they get sand in the binding, squashed in your backpack, left under the bed, or fall into the water. They are not special occasion books; they are any occasion books.
I especially enjoy reading a secondhand book with underlined quotes or penciled in comments. Not too many, and not in pen – we’re not monsters, are we? – but the infrequent impulse to remind yourself of some particularly good wording. And to see what captures someone else’s eye, enough for them to stop reading and grab a pencil, is a joy.
Speaking of pencils in books, I also find myself gravitating towards books where someone has written on the first page.
To Marie, on your sixteenth birthday. Love Auntie Joan.
Who are these people? Will I ever walk past them on a random street? Only God knows. The mystery, the intrigue, the possibility is enough. The not-knowing is enough. The guessing, imagining, is enough. This rings particularly true when it is an old book, and I wonder whether the sixteenth birthday happened long before I was born.
All of my books evoke something in me. Most of the time, this feeling has little to do with the story and more to do with the external circumstances surrounding the book. Perhaps the purchase, or maybe someone else who made the purchase. The time of my life in which I read it, the season I was walking at the time.
Books are treasures. I really believe that.