Finding Home in a Book

It often seems the most interesting things in life happen to us when we’re not looking for them.  And so it is with “book treasures”; those rare things that when found while flipping through a seemingly worthless book suddenly make it precious.  For the reader, this could be any number of things: a date, an inscription, a photo, cash- the possibilities are endless.

In Indianapolis, a lovely woman by the name of Trish visited our booth at Lilith Fair.  Pema (AlterEco) was sitting by our bookshelf, thoughtfully contemplating her surroundings as she so often is.  The woman approached her, and held out a dollar bill.  She told Pema that she wanted her to have it. “I want to give you this dollar.  I received my concert ticket for free and this is all I have with me, but I want you to have it.”  Books were so important to her, and she explained that reading as a child had such a positive impact on her life.  She left the tent, and Pema immediately came over to share the story with me.

We started talking about ways to share the story and possibly even the dollar; to stretch it into something more with a broader message.  Everyone who came into contact with the dollar would read the story and experience finding something magical in an ordinary book.  Of course we’ve yet to put this into play and thought we’d sit on the idea for awhile.  I placed the dollar in one of my boxes and put it away in a crate for the night.

The next morning, we arrived in Detroit and started unpacking our things.  In the middle of set-up, I ran across the dollar which I’d admittedly already forgotten.  I decided to put it someplace where I could carry it around with the other materials from my booth without losing it.  What better place than a book?  I had a few dozen old and somewhat interesting books for display.  I grabbed one of my favorites off the shelf; an old volume of “The American Educator Encyclopedia”, copyright 1956.  It’s solid red and beautifully detailed with a relief design on both covers.

I opened the book to the front page and there, at the top, was written “Sheila Wood 57865 Apple Road, Osceola”.  It was the early cursive of a 9 or 10 year old child.  Not just any child, but my Aunt.  The address belongs to my Grandparents who moved in more than 50yrs ago and still live there today.  There’s no saying how this book, this one volume in what was once a full set of encyclopedias, wound up in our booth for the tour.  It’s been with me for over a month and I was completely oblivious.  What are the chances that her book which she wrote in almost 50 years ago would wind up in our booth and travel with me throughout the continent?  How many different hands did it touch before half a century later finding its way back to our family?  Pretty wild.  It begs the question:  What’s the most interesting thing you’ve ever found in a book?

8 Comments

  1. In my time at BWB, I have found a $10 bill (my fourth day), a picture of George W. Bush from a fund raiser, a picture of a dog in a Hawaiian shirt and a million different bookmarks and random receipts.

  2. That is so good. I once found $50 in a secondhand book…I shouldn’t have bought the book because we were very short of money at the time. I think the previous owner had been using it as a bookmark, imagine that, good for me though.

  3. What an incredible story, Abbey!

    I’ve never found anything more interesting than a receipt or train ticket tucked inside books, but I do love the margin notes that I find. Once was reading a book about women during the Second World War and saw scribbled next to a picture, “Look, it’s Betty and Edith!”

  4. 3. Susan Wright – July 26, 2010

    I found several old four leaf clovers in a book that belonged to my grandmother. I could picture her and some young man laying in a field reading to each other and looking for the clovers. A simple time with simple pleasures.

  5. A little more than $1,500 cash. No joke. The book had been returned to the library where I am employed. We contacted the previous borrower only to find the number we had on record out of service. The next day we get a call from a distressed patron asking if we found any cash in a book. He was able to give us the exact amount as well as his ID and we happily returned his cash to him.

  6. In a plain, very old handbook for the Modern Woodmen a men’s organization) I found handwritten recipes in the margins and blank pages. What a find! It was then that I decided to collect cookbooks – especially those collections sold as fundraisers. The recipes in those have been made and tested by actual people so I know I will be able to make them and probably like them.

  7. Elizabeth says:

    I once found LSD in a library copy of Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas.

    I got a kick out of that! :)

  8. I too have found many several bookmarks, receipts and recently found between the pages a large picture of Jesus with a golden glowing heart in the center of his chest. It’s beautiful. I have at least a dozen bookmarks but I think I’ll use this one for a long time to come; He makes me feel good when I open to my page to continue reading.

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