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August 18, 2008

Reading Life Like a Book

Baby avocado growth- the first three months, May - August.

Books are a very emotional experience for me. I never really thought much about it before, but after spending three days with Alexis attempting to pack up our bookshelves (we're still not done), I am now convinced.

A large portion of my books have historical markers. Though I can look at a cover and usually remember back to the time that it came into my possession, I also have a habit of leaving little cues. Beginning about ten yeas ago, I began to label most of them with my name and the date (and in some cases, my address, which is kind of fun because I've moved around a lot). I also leave little things inside some of the books- sometimes just the receipt of where and when I purchased it, sometimes a business card or tangible piece of where I was when I read it. My parents began this tradition for me when I was born by writing notes inside my books for birthdays, etc. That way I can look back through my children's literature and know exactly what year I received it. It's great. All combined, these notes and markers make for an entirely different narrative about my own life.

Therefore, when boxing up 30 years of books this weekend, I found myself amidst a barrage of memories. Each time I tackled an era- education and pedagogy, psychology, memory studies, urban history, poetry, etc.- people and places floated through my mind like a slide show. Two of the favorites that I found were:

  • My name and date hand written into Where the Sidewalk Ends, along with an addendum note from two years later instructing the next owner of the book on the merits of Shel Silverstein - 1983 & 1995
  • A note enclosed in a copy of the Phantom Tollbooth from my close friend on my seventeenth birthday, noting that she wanted to give me something that I would have forever and hoping that I would find it in my attic in twenty years and think of her - 1994

Also found: the receipt from the very first book that I bought on, 1996; a flyer from the Bearded Lady tattoo and piercing parlor in Northampton, MA, 1995; markers on every poem I have ever loved (and many that I have forgotten about); an entry pass to PS 142K, stuck inside a totally random book that I must have been reading en route, 2001; a photo booth picture of myself and my best friend in elementary school, taken at the mall when we were eleven, 1990, stuck inside a copy of the Theban Plays.

I left everything in place within the I can imagine that in another 20 or 30 years, they'll only feel even more valuable.

P.S. We have about 100 books that we would like get rid of. Some of them aren't that interesting but others are great, such as extra copies of Richard Plunz's A History of Housing in New York City, a number of art books focusing on graffiti, lots of fiction, etc. If you're local and want some books, send us an email. Otherwise, we're going to ferry some to Freebird and the rest to the sidewalk.

Posted by callalillie at August 18, 2008 12:33 PM | Change , Introspect


It's a family thing. I have scores of books too.
Recently I opened a book about cats that Chris gave me when he worked at FAO Schwarz. Inside I found a small print he made with a short note. I did the same thing, left it in place~hidden treasure. Good luck packing!

Posted by: Vickie at August 18, 2008 6:09 PM

It's been awhile as I thought you were gone. You're back and with such big news. Huge congrats. It's amazing to think that someone is actually buying a home these days. How happy will be the birthday boy and all the furry creatures. Do they get their own rooms?

Posted by: virginia Case at August 21, 2008 1:06 AM

Beautiful post. Books are incredibly emotional things. I do not have 30 years worth of books, mostly because many were not worth keeping and I had no idea of what GOOD literature was until 10 years or so back, but also because I have moved so much in my lifetime. I love the idea of writing the date in the book and leaving reminders in them. I may start doing that.

Posted by: Gina at August 31, 2008 3:40 PM

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