Sometimes I’ll crack open a book to see a cache of forgotten keepsakes: an old bookmark, an old letter, a note in the margin, a name on the inside cover. Once I bought a used book simply because there was a loose photograph of a woman inside. I felt an odd but instant kinship with this woman, choosing to believe she was the previous owner of the book. A hotel cocktail napkin fell out of a book once. It had a name and room number on it. Was there a story there?
Even the term, ‘used bookstore’, conjures up for me instant atmosphere: dusty, un-inventoried, and overflowing shelves to the ceiling; creaky floorboards and irregular lighting; controlled chaos; the lovely musty and heady smell of old books; tilting towers of lettered spines. It’s like a treasure hunt, this browsing and searching for idle hours in a place that seems detached from the rest of the world and where the pace is slow motion. You never know exactly what you’ll find, but the longer you stay, the more you’ll leave with.
"It was clear that the books owned the shop rather than the other way about. Everywhere they had run wild and taken possession of their habitat breeding and multiplying, and clearly lacking any strong hand to keep them down." — Agatha Christie (1963)