Reading Between the Lines



Hey Gang!

A very merry Christmas Eve day to you all. I hope you are enjoying the holidays as much as my post-grad self. It’s been a stressful two weeks but now I am back home and truly enjoying it. I can finally breathe. 

There is one thing that I love about being home and that is that my mother and I go to thrift stores. A lot. She usually meanders around but I have one purpose when in there and have since I was a child and we would go there.

That one purpose being books.

I must admit that I have an infatuation with books. I remember as a child I would read as many books as possible, including a children’s book that was about dinosaurs. I loved that book because it had a funny smell and I was convinced that that was how dinosaurs actually smelled. I figured it was a scratch and sniff book and somehow the master author also found out how they smelled and added that for effect. To this day I can still smell those dinosaurs. In case you were wondering, dinosaurs smell eerily like musty old books and ink. Go figure.

So, on our little trips I found books but they were better for some reason. They had more personality than those bought at a book store. These were books loved by some, hated by others but all were used in some manner. They had a back story; a history that was told by the creased backs, the dogeared pages, the bookmarks left inside, the notes scribbled in the margins and so much more. There was a story written on the pages but there was another one told by the pages and binding itself. Unfortunately, the pervasive use of e-readers are making this concept of books telling stories a bit obsolete. I am not a proponent of e-readers as you really lose the experience of reading. You miss the sound of the spine cracking and the smells and the trophy of the book itself after it is conquered and on your shelf. You can look at it and remember the story within. It is no longer words on a page in binding but a symbol of whatever you have elicited from it. It transcends its initial purpose.

Plus, you can no longer say, “Boy, that was a page turner!” Now it’s, “Boy, that was a button jammer/ finger swiper!”

I loved flipping through those old pages and seeing into the aspects of others. Someone got this book for a reason and gave it away for a reason. I may not enjoy reading what’s on these pages but what follows are some of my favorite books that tell more than the story written on the pages.

“Adolphe” by Benjamin Constant


This is one of the earlier books I found and I love it because it is all in french. It is severely warn and has an original publication date of 1941. All of the pages are still there and it is just a beautiful book. Great printing inside and I believe it is a book for individuals wishing to learn french. One of my favorite oldies.

“The Adventures of a Continental Drifter” by Elliot Hester


This is one of the few that I am beginning to read. I love travel books and am planning to backpack around Europe in a couple of years. I got the idea from another great book called “Europe From a Backpack”. If you have time, please check that out but I digress. This book is good but I love the inscription there in the beginning. It looks as if it had at least two owners, one is even dated as march 3, 2009. Then underneath it says “Pretty interesting”. So, kind of a neat little thing to think about this book being about travel and then travelling between owners. A drifter in its own right.

“Green Mansions” by F.H. Hudson


I literally have no idea what this book is about. I haven’t tried to read it because it is in frail condition. I also enjoy the enigmatic presence of the book. It has great illustrations and is in seemingly decent condition page-wise but no identifying markers. It only has the company, not copyright or publication information at all. A book that is my own riddle and I love it. 

“The Ides of March” by Thornian Wilder


It’s a classic story, which we all know. The book itself is in decent condition and is an original printing from 1948! The last novel the author ever wrote. The pencil writing is extremely old. I doubt it was from 1948 but it has been there quite a while. So, her Easter gift is now one of my favorite books in my collection.

“The Cuckoo Clock of Doom” by R.L. Stine


GOOSEBUMPS!!! One of my favorite collections of books in history. I can’t believe that some of them were even meant for kids. “The Haunted Mask” still gives me the creeps. Now, you may ask, “Why the H is this here?” Well, dear reader, look at the top right of the cover picture. That’s right, it’s me! I bought this book at a scholastic sale in 1995 at my elementary school. They reserved it for me. I just found this as I was preparing for this blog post. I flipped through and saw that I dogeared the page on chapter 8 and had to laugh. I kept thinking, “Oh, tiny Chris, how you had such a small attention span at 9…” 

“The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” by Victor Hugo


This is a good one because I actually went to school with the girl whose name appears on the inside cover there. I blurred out her last name for privacy but I love the little smile afterwards. I found this at a Goodwill and it was weird because I never really talked to her or anything but I had this book that she had used for school, evident by the writings in the margins. So, I would see her at school and contemplate telling her about it but, in the end, I found it to be too creepy. So, I kept it my little secret. I also wanted to ask her why she stopped reading after the first chapter.

“The Road Less Traveled” by M.Scott Peck, M.D. 


Not a big self-help book fan but I can understand why people get them. This one I picked up because I loved the inscription. In case you can’t read it, it says, “Carolyn, I enjoyed this book so much when I was doing some self analysis. Perhaps you will, too- Andrea.” How cool is that? This book helped, possibly, two people. The power of a book is impressive.

“Amerika” by Franz Kafka

Image Image

This one is a bit more tragic to me. This is the thirteenth printing of the book (c.1974). The bookmark left on page 64 reads, “To a Dad who love’s Book’s, Love Jennifer P.” I left in the apostrophes to stay true to what she wrote. I bought this at Goodwill because it is sad to me that a little girl got this book for her father and then it ended up at a Goodwill. I felt like I was rescuing it. So, Jennifer P., I hope your father was on his second read through when he stopped on page 64.

Last but certainly not least!

“3,500 Good Jokes For Speakers” by Gerald F. Lieberman


My mother bought this for me because she knew I liked to do public speeches and such. I was grateful. I thought it would help. What I found inside was a treasure trove of terrible jokes. Some made no sense but, more importantly, I found that someone really liked this book. I mean, there are checks by jokes and they even wrote it down on an old Radio Shack receipt. Take a look:



The one on the left is a reference to a western movie actor. The one on the right is the receipt to Radio Shack and on the back…



This joke says, “Was going to do magic but all my tricks disappeared…” pure. gold.



These are more notes from the script. What I left out was that the guy wrote his SSN on the bottom. That is sensitive information and people need to be more careful. Luckily, I am not a creep and won’t mess with it but for future reference, keep that fairly hidden, folks.



Here are some of this person’s favorites. i believe they are pretty much all lame but what’s funny to me isn’t funny to everyone. So, read a couple of the ones they liked most that are marked by checks…

A long post, I know. I hope you made it through though because by now you can see what I meant about character. These books are so much more than what we pay for because we put a little bit of ourselves into it. Whether it’s a well read book like Green Mansions or our favorite parts signified by checks as in the joke book, we leave traces of ourselves. Books tell more about us than we know. Humorist, French Enthusiast, Lover of Goosebumps.

This post is meant for more than showing characteristics of used books. I meant for this to be a post where these books that were tossed into a box and given to a thrift store now have a voice. They have become important again because those scribbled notes are being read which means they are relevant and have meaning once again and that is priceless. They can tell a story once again.

Thanks for making it to the end and Happy Holidays!



4 thoughts on “Reading Between the Lines

  1. I like buying 2nd hand books for this reason too. And I’m one of those terrible people who write notes in books they’re reading so now I’m curious what the new owners might make of the books I’ve sold or donated.

  2. I love your post, just right for the festive season when sometimes people get too caught up in commercialism.The book although a material object, transcends this. I have always felt that a book I have read becomes a part of me and that I leave a part of myself withit:0)I totally agree with your sentiments in this post and feel inspired to pay a visit to a few second hand bookshops. Hope you had a great Christmas:0)

  3. This is wonderful! I love your comments about what people have inscribed in their books, what sensitive observations (and funny). There’s something both sad and sweet about seeing those ghostly scrawls.


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s