The Unique Appeal of Used Books

I love buying used books. Books that are beaten up with crinkled pages and bent covers. Books that have very clearly seen some shit. But I especially like books with notes or writing in them.

I was thumbing through a used romance book at the bookstore today that had a folded-up paper tucked inside of it. It was neatly printed, in delicate, feminine handwriting, with the names and phone numbers of local divorce lawyers.

In my head, I imagined a couple, lying next to each other in bed, him lost in his phone, her lost in a book, neither speaking nor touching… both complacent but secretly feeling trapped in a marriage where mutual attraction and passion had long since died. Whatever the case, I hope it ended amicably. I hope they are both happier now.

I had a copy of Charles Brockden Brown’s Edgar Huntley, or Memoirs of a Sleep-Walker, marked up by some overzealous undergrad—randomly scattered about the margins were “sex?” and “phallic?” and at one point “reverse phallus?”. I remember whispering quietly into the book, “I think you mean vagina” as if the writer of that comment could hear me.

Of course, they couldn’t, but the lady on the bus sure did. All I could think to add was, “On the other hand, sometimes a cave is just a cave” and she moved two seats away.

The notes did not at all diminish my enjoyment of the book—rather I relished in the unique experience of it, that only this physical copy could provide.

What about you? Do you like to buy books with writing in it? Do you write notes in books you own?

5 thoughts on “The Unique Appeal of Used Books

  1. The local and extremely charming used bookstore did me in a long time ago. I go in saying “none,” compromise at “one,” and then leave with three books plus a rediscovered childhood favorite and a classic.

    “A dollar fifty? Well, I mean, EVERY writer should own ‘Fahrenheit 451,’ right–?”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, boy. My local used bookstore is kinda pricey so I can usually keep down the purchases, but I hit all the library and charity sales in the metro and walk out with bags full.

      And yes, every writer should own a copy of Fahrenheit 451 🙂


  2. I suppose it’s a way of preserving your opinions for posterity when the books you own are found in the second hand book shop. I often underline passages that move me so I can find them but more often than not I never return.

    Liked by 1 person

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