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The Sunday Salon: Connecting Through Notes Left in Books

The Sunday Salon.com I was reading one of my new library books recently, Hunger: An Unnatural History, and came across a checkout receipt from another patron. That person checkout the book on September 17, 2007 from the Sequoya Branch Library at 3:44 p.m. They also checked out The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science. I wonder what kind of person would check out both of those books at the same time?

I’ve always loved finding things left in books — I like the tangible evidence that another person has picked up this book, read it, and experienced the same words and stories that I’m experiencing now. I’ve always loved the way books can connect people across time and place, and finding evidence like a library receipt just makes that feel more real.

I’m a big fan of PostSecret — an online community where people mail secrets on the backs of postcards that are then shared online and in books. It’s become common for people to leave their own secrets in the pages of PostSecret books at bookstores and libraries, sharing real secrets with another person who also decided to pick up that book. I’ve never found a postcard in a book, but I think that would be cool.

I’m almost tempted to start leaving notes or quotes or fortunes in the pages of the library books I read. I wonder if the person finding the note would be as fascinated as me, or if they’d just find it a little weird.

What’s the most interesting or oddest thing you’ve ever found left in a book? What things have you left in books for other people to find?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Nicole February 28, 2010, 1:26 pm

    I love the PostSecret website too! I also love it when I buy a used book and find someone else’s notes in the margins. I read a blog post once by someone who works at a used bookstore, and he talked about all the different things he’s found in the pages of books. It’s like finding hidden treasure, an intimate piece of someone you’ve never met, nor will ever meet.

    • Kim March 1, 2010, 4:08 pm

      Nicole: I do love margin notes too. Underlining in used books sort of annoys me, but seeing thoughts on the page makes me smile. I’m not sure there’s a big distinction, but it makes a difference to me 🙂

  • Kay February 28, 2010, 1:35 pm

    http://www.forgottenbookmarks.com/ is then the very site for you 🙂

    It’s the site of a guy who works in an used book store and chronicles his findings among the pages of the books he works with.

    • Christy (A Good Stopping Point) February 28, 2010, 2:42 pm

      Cool website – thanks for posting it!

    • Kim March 1, 2010, 4:08 pm

      Kay: Thank you for that website — I hadn’t heard of it, and it looks like so much fun!

  • bermudaonion (Kathy) February 28, 2010, 1:54 pm

    I’ve never really found anything more interesting than a library receipt or an old bookmark.

    • Kim March 1, 2010, 4:09 pm

      bermudaonion: That’s too bad; keep looking!

  • Aarti February 28, 2010, 2:23 pm

    Kay beat me to it, but I think you’ll really like the Forgotten Bookmarks site! It’s a lot of fun. You can follow on Twitter, too 🙂

    • Kim March 1, 2010, 4:10 pm

      Aarti: I <3 things I can follow on Twitter, too 🙂 I subscribed to Forgotten Bookmarks yesterday and already really like it.

  • Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy) February 28, 2010, 2:27 pm

    Funny you should write about this. I found a paint chip card with several hues of blue between the pages of my current read, “The Audacity to Win” by David Plouffe. Made me wonder what color they chose, what room … and start a blog post about it, too.

    I’ve gotta check out the Forgotten Bookmarks site.

    • Kim March 1, 2010, 4:11 pm

      Melissa: That’s neat! I’m curious what color they chose too.

  • A Bookshelf Monstrosity February 28, 2010, 3:31 pm

    I haven’t found anything extremely cool in library books- just your run of the mill class notes or grocery list. My dad, however, found a romantic letter that was about 60 years old in a book he bought at a library sale one time.

    • Kim March 1, 2010, 4:11 pm

      A Bookshelf Monstrosity: That’s cool too. I would love to find something that exciting.

  • Jenny February 28, 2010, 3:50 pm

    One time I found five dollars in a book, which was exciting, and once in a library book I found a long, detailed letter written in pencil on the flyleaf. The girl who wrote it was having boy troubles. I tried to make a copy but my printer stopped working. 🙁

    • Kim March 1, 2010, 4:12 pm

      Jenny: Those are both awesome. I don’t think there could be anything better than finding money in a book 🙂

  • Monica (aka monnibo) February 28, 2010, 5:44 pm

    In second hand books I find interesting inscriptions. In my mom’s bible from when she was a kid (they studied at school) i’ve found her art projects for bible study used as bookmarks.

    • Kim March 1, 2010, 4:12 pm

      Monica: Those are both cool. I haven’t found any good inscriptions lately, but I always look for those too.

  • diane February 28, 2010, 6:34 pm

    I once found a credit card and another time $10.00 bill (library books).

    • Kim March 1, 2010, 4:13 pm

      diane: Yikes, a credit card? I’m glad it didn’t fall into the wrong hands.

  • Julie February 28, 2010, 6:47 pm

    I am absolutely facinated by the Post Secret books. The video to the song Dirty Little Secret by The All American Rejects features people holding up their “post secret” postcards with their faces blurred or hidden. It’s pretty cool and worth checking out on YouTube. Unfortunately, I’ve never found anything interesting in a book.

    • Kim March 1, 2010, 4:13 pm

      Julie: I love PostSecret. I did a campus PostSecret when I was in undergrad — we provided postcards, then printed scans of them in the feature section of the paper. It was fun.

  • Care February 28, 2010, 7:11 pm

    I don’t think I’ve found anything… Can’t think of a thing.

    • Kim March 1, 2010, 4:14 pm

      Care: Sad! Keep looking 🙂

  • Maphead February 28, 2010, 7:55 pm

    Once years ago I bought a used copy of Joseph Campbell’s Hero of a Thousand Faces and inside it was a newspaper interview with one of Campbell’s former colleagues. Needless to say, he had some incredibly unflattering things to say about Campbell ! If what the guy the guy said was true, it kind of Campbell and his work in a whole new light !

    • Kim March 1, 2010, 4:14 pm

      Maphead: That’s so funny! I wonder who put the interview in the book? That would make a great story.

  • Eva February 28, 2010, 8:25 pm

    Ohh-Hunger! Are you enjoying it?! I went to gets another of Russell’s books (Anatomy of a Rose) from my library, and their copy has gone missing. So now I’m pouty.

    I found someone’s receipt from paying a court fee once. LOL And in high school I found a $20 bill in a book that hadn’t been checked out for a couple of years. That was pretty exciting!

    • Kim March 1, 2010, 4:15 pm

      Eva: Yeah, Hunger… is really good. It was a little slow to start, but picked up a lot at the end. She has a really lovely writing style.

      Both your book finds are pretty awesome 🙂

  • Lu February 28, 2010, 10:09 pm

    Once I found a bookmark the school gave out with your portraits. It was a young boy, 8 or 9. I gave it back to the librarian with the hopes she would find his mom or dad. I also find lots of bugs but I don’t think that’s what you were looking for 😉

    • Kim March 1, 2010, 4:15 pm

      Lu: That’s a good story! I hope the bookmark found its family again.

  • Becker March 1, 2010, 7:12 am

    I work in a library, so we find all kinds of things! (we actually have several collages up of things we’ve found in returned books). My latest interesting one was a losing lottery scratch ticket in a copy of Jim Cramer’s Getting Back to Even. Guess the lottery strategy didn’t work.

    • Kim March 1, 2010, 4:16 pm

      Becker: Lol. That’s too funny. I wonder if my library has a collage of found things… I should look!

  • Andi March 1, 2010, 10:05 am

    I found a beautiful postcard from an art show in a book one time, and I think that’s one of my favorite book “artifacts.” I kept it, though I sometimes wonder if I should’ve put it back in the library book and passed it along to someone else.

    Once I left one of my own postcards from a postcard swap in a library book by accident, and when I started working at that library months later, the postcard came back to me when one of my librarian co-workers found it in the book and returned it.

    • Kim March 1, 2010, 4:17 pm

      Andi: Those are both good stories. I like the idea of leaving postcards in books for people to find — nothing personal, just something beautiful to look at.

  • Angie (By Book or By Crook) March 1, 2010, 4:30 pm

    I found a $2 bill in a book once which was pretty cool and in a cook book I found recipe cards tucked in but that’s about it.

    • Kim March 3, 2010, 9:13 pm

      Angie: That is pretty cool, actually. It’d be fun to have a $2 bill since they don’t make them anymore.

  • Rebecca Reid March 1, 2010, 7:48 pm

    I hope you are enjoying Hunger! If enjoy is the right word.

    I haven’t found lots of interesting things in books. In a wordless picture book, though, I found post-it notes with text written on the bottom, as if some mother was trying to remember what the story was so they could tell it to their kid. It made me sad. I think they missed the point of the wordless book!

    • Kim March 3, 2010, 9:14 pm

      Rebecca: Lol, that’s a sad but funny story. I’d think the fun of a wordless book would be to just explore it with your child, but maybe not?