The Things We Leave Behind: On Finding Items in Second-Hand Books

I love buying books for other people. However, sometimes I find things inside them which I must keep for myself.

There are times I find myself so devoid of inspiration that staring endlessly at the screen only causes my eyes to wander off in different directions, hoping to find the tiniest particle of creativity outside, on the table, or underneath the couch. On those days, I usually end up with a headache, a full stomach (somehow my brain always convinces me that food will spark my imagination, which is never the case), and a blank screen. Occasionally, however, my blog posts write themselves. Yesterday something happened which I simply had to write about – and of course it happened at a bookshop. Want to know what it was? Read on!

I wasn’t allowed to buy any books yesterday. That’s the one thing my boyfriend demanded of me when he allowed me to go with him to the bookshop. I promised I wouldn’t. However, since I needed to feed my book-buying addiction, I kindly asked him if buying books for others would be allowed. It was.

So that’s how I found myself at the checkout counter with three books tucked safely under my arm, hoping that they would be great birthday presents. But I was the one who received a real gift: I found a used book mark in the second-hand books I had just purcharsed. It was a personal one, with pictures and a date on it.

Finding items like these always inspire me. Why, I wonder, would they leave behind this bookmark inside a book? Did something happen between them, was the memory of the person on the bookmark too depressing, and did they jut wanted to get rid of it? Did they even read this book? Was this book given to them by someone else? Why would they donate a gifted book, and not even finish it? Or is this bookmark a hidden message? What would they want to say with it?

I have no idea what was going on with this particular bookmark. However, if I were a proper writer, this would be the theme of my next novel. The Things We Leave Behind, it would be called (it’s not a very good title, but hey, like I said, I’m not a proper writer), and if would focus on things we discard, things we no longer attach any meaning to, but which might be really valuable for someone else. I would touch upon issues such as materialism and lost love, and how getting rid of unwanted items is a metaphor for letting go of negative feelings.

Oh! What a splendid book it would be! Critics would love it, it would be translated into a hundred different languages, and everyone would buy it – and it would be the perfect birthday gift. Not everyone would read it, though, and some of them might even donate it, unread, to a second-hand bookshop.

Let’s hope they leave something inside of them, and inspire aspiring authors to write their next bestseller.

What’s the best thing you ever found in a second-hand book? What’s the last book you bought? Which book did you buy for someone else as a birthday gift? Please let me know in the comments! Also, don’t forget to follow me for more book-related posts!

This is a selection of books I recently purchased. I am writing a By The Book of Milan Kundera’s novel as we speak.

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