As if the karma Gods of the world would look down poorly on me, I never throw a book into the trash.
Last week I was sorting through a wicker basket near my side of the bed. Magazines, sections of newspapers, and books tend to find themselves filed away until I am encouraged to straighten up my side of the room.
Near the bottom, I spotted a worn copy of a book a friend loaned me more than a year ago. Opening the pages, I could see his handwriting and notes in the margins – and in some odd trick of magic, I could also hear his voice. While an author originally drafted the manuscript, my friend made it his own.
Books are remarkable creations. While generally simple thoughts placed on paper, books maintain a curious sense of value to us. No matter how old or worn, people hold on to books like few other objects. The act of opening of an aged book sends people into a curious set of motions like they are holding a newborn baby. Using our fingertips, we gently leaf brittle pages open and closed. And for those moments, we feel as if traveling backward in time, swimming in smell and aroma of yesteryear.
Looking down at the notes in the margins, I could clearly hear my friend’s voice. The thoughts, the concepts, and the ideas all came spilling out from him over the years we worked alongside each other. His passion is as colorful as the scribbling decorating the margins of the pages.
Several years ago, my brother and I closed down the old home where we grew up. Clearing out my room, I began sorting through piles of paperbacks I’d read growing up while leaning back against the headboard of my bed. The pages yellowed and book covers with a tear here of there, but they still spoke to me. I remember traveling across the country with John Steinbeck and his dog Charlie. Another carried me to walking alongside Holden Caulfield and his personal journey of teenage angst and trying to make sense of the world around him. And finally, an extremely worn and yellowed book my mother gave me when I was wrestling with paralyzing shyness as a kid in school. Dale Carnegie’s words gave this nervous 5th grader the courage to walk up to girl in our class and start a conversation by complimenting her necklace.
Good books can become deeply personal markers for each of us. And the magic inside of them is not exclusively the words on the pages, but what happens once the words lift off the pages and become a part of us.
Some books speak to us, while others do not. But one thing I know for sure is there is always a chance a book will connect with another in a profoundly personal way.
Sealing up my friend’s book into an envelope, I knew I was returning a piece of personal property – one he’d help create.