The Things We Leave Behind

I have a confession to make: In addition to spending a great deal of money purchasing new books, I also love to hang out at libraries and used bookstores. It’s better on the budget, no doubt about it. But it’s more than that.

There’s just something cool about holding a book in my hand and reading the words, knowing that someone else held that very same book. Someone else read those very same words. As I’m reading I wonder, who were those other people? What did they think of it? Did they respond the same way I am… or quite differently?

I love this “permanent” aspect of paper-and-ink books. They can almost become like living entities, as they get passed around from hand to hand.

Readers leave bits of themselves behind in books, too, giving tantalizing clues about who they are. There’s the typical coffee stain, and sometimes marks of different colors that beg the question: What were they eating while they read this? A bean burrito? Strawberry ice cream?

Then there’s the underlining, highlighting and dog-eared pages. I love to ponder the lines and paragraphs others have thought important enough to mark (especially in library books – that takes a lot of nerve!) Sometimes I agree with the significance of the passage. Sometimes I puzzle over it, not quite getting what was so great about it.

I have to say, though, that the coolest thing about used books is the treasures I often find inside. Not the words, but bookmarks, business cards, greeting cards, and mysterious notes left inside by previous readers. It’s amazing to me how often I find these things, and I save every one of them. They’re a tangible clue to that faceless person who read this book before me, and they conjure up pictures in my mind, sometimes driving me crazy with curiosity.

Yesterday I found a folded napkin from Frontier Airlines in a book. There was nothing written on it (although that would have been cool) but there was a pink heart sticker on it. Hmmm. A child maybe? But it wasn’t a child’s book.

A few days ago I found a business card for a private investigator (how exciting!) with a lot of scribbles on the back, including several websites, one of them being the Professional Private Investigators Association of Colorado and a notation, “first Weds of every month.” I sat for awhile thinking about how cool it might be to be a private investigator, but couldn’t quite imagine Kinsey Milhone or Stephanie Plum going to a monthly meeting with fellow detectives.

The most precious thing I’ve found in a book lately was a beautiful flowery notecard with a handwritten note. It was addressed “Dearest Margaret” and signed “Love, Nancy” and contained a lovely quote on mothering among other things. When reading something like this, I can’t help feeling voyeuristic and kind of like I’m intruding on someone’s privacy. But then I realize, it’s not my fault I opened this book and found this notecard here. And maybe this note was, in some cosmic fashion, meant to come into my hands. Maybe Nancy’s lovely note to Margaret has something in it for me. Maybe it came to me because I save and treasure these things, and therefore the note has even more meaning than it originally did.

It doesn’t matter; I keep the little clues others leave behind, to remind me of the real people out there who read our books.

I do sometimes wonder if these people are missing their little items… probably not an airline napkin, but it’s possible the detective is looking for that business card, and Margaret might be wondering where she put that sweet note from Nancy. I always have a moment of wanting to be a detective myself and track those people down and return their items. But then I get over it.

What I do know is this: There’s an amazing, fun feeling of discovery every time I open a book, and these little treasures left behind only add to the thrill. Books take me to unexpected places, give me a glimpse into other people’s lives… and the things other readers leave behind, well, they make the experience that much richer.

Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. Jake Derentis on June 30, 2011 at 5:20 PM

    To help in retrieving the faith of the lender, it’s vital to repay your current outstanding debts as soon as possible

  2. Wendy Delfosse on July 1, 2010 at 10:11 PM

    >I know I'm way late to comment on this, but it seems no one else hit this: do you think, Rachelle, when you find underling and such in library books that people have that much nerve (some probably do) or that someone did that and then donated the book to the library?

  3. Kristi Bernard on June 28, 2010 at 11:21 AM

    >This is a great post. I have been blessed a few times by recieving hand-me-down books from family and friends. I have found some little treasures myself and was able to pick up the phone and ask, "are you missing this?" I discovered some really great stuff and some wonderful stories to go along with it.

  4. Don Booker on June 23, 2010 at 3:31 PM

    >I sent you a submission last week for my novel, It's What You Leave Behind.

    Fate? 🙂

    Nice post. Lot's of heart.

  5. Lyndieb on June 23, 2010 at 11:27 AM

    >The thought of Kinsey Milhone going to a monthly detective meeting made me laugh out loud. I believe I will distract me the rest of the day. What situation would make her go? What if the meeting was at Rosie's? Would there be an old boyfriend there? Would this meeting make her bring out her dress? Maybe they are offering a sale on index cards….

  6. Trading Plan Template on June 22, 2010 at 11:18 PM

    >Wow! Reading this article is almost as good as finding a mysterious note inside an old book in a library. It gave me another glimpse of a real person and not just a literary agent.

  7. Nathalie on June 22, 2010 at 10:01 PM

    >Hi everyone, I started reading this blog a few weeks ago, it's great, thanks Rachelle.

    I'm one of those people that leaves things in books. I don't know why I do it, but I like to. I'm glad people appreciate it, I know I do when I find something.

    I'll be sad if ever the actual book is gone, the smell of old pages and the hands that have held them. Hmm…

  8. Crafty Green Poet on June 22, 2010 at 4:16 PM

    >I love second hand books too and the serendipity of the things you might find there. I bought a second hand poetry book once that contained a whole history in travel tickets, pressed leaves etc.

    I make bookmarks from reused materials to leave in books that I give to second hand bookshops. Unfortunately some bookshops remove anything they find in the books before selling them, which i think shows a distinct lack of imagination!

  9. Carol J. Garvin on June 22, 2010 at 3:58 PM

    >My grandparents had contributed family information for a small Canadian prairie town history that their local historical society published. My mother was given a copy of the book and I read the pertinent pages at that time.

    Many years later, after my parents died, I came across the book in a box and decided to read it again. This time I found a small notebook tucked inside the back cover. It was filled with my grandmother's notes about other family members — a genealogical treasure trove! The details are wonderful to have, but my grandmother's words in her own handwriting are even more precious.

  10. CMOM Productions on June 22, 2010 at 3:18 PM

    >I really enjoyed this post! 🙂 I've recently dug out some of my old books for my kids and found little treasures from my childhood hidden in the pages.

  11. katelovesbooks on June 22, 2010 at 11:25 AM

    >I have a lovely copy of The Belle of Amherst that had been given as gifts several times (judging from the number of inscriptions). There were cartoons clipped from the newspaper having to do with Emily Dickinson and programs from the play when someone went to see it. I don't know who these people were, but it's one of my most treasured books.

  12. Jil on June 22, 2010 at 9:20 AM

    >Dried flowers are something I have found in old books and once a four leaf clover. Did I receive someone else's luck? But most interesting, and sad, was the yellowed suicide note. Did she do it? I still have it at the back of a drawer and keep thinking I should try to track it down.

  13. Cindy Lamir on June 22, 2010 at 9:07 AM

    I loved reading your post. I have tons of bookshelves filled with my favorite books from childhood to my latest business book. I love to go and "visit" my books and remember…I find tear tracks on pages…a note on the inside front cover from a friend…a business card… an airline boarding pass…
    It's almost like reading the journal of my life as I remember why I dogeared the page- or underlined a phrase- or saved a momento.
    I wonder who will find my books when I am gone- and cherish the things that meant something to me?

  14. Marla Taviano on June 22, 2010 at 7:44 AM

    >My grandma moved to a nursing home last year, and all of her stuff got divvied up amongst 7 kids & their spouses, 30 grandkids and even more great-grandkids.

    My grandma loves books more than anyone I've ever met. EVER. And she had TONS of them. And almost every single one had writing in it, articles and quotations and cards taped to the inside covers and anywhere from 2 to 20 things stuffed inside. Craziness. But so awesome. Such treasures.

  15. Edwina on June 22, 2010 at 1:48 AM

    >I agree with you – there is nothing better than holding a book in my hands, wondering what discoveries I will find inside the book – not only the words – but also those things left behind by previous readers. I have often found the stub of a boarding pass and wonder why this person was going from one city to another.

  16. Neil Larkins on June 22, 2010 at 12:22 AM

    >My sentiments as well: e-books could never have that aspect of humanity infused into them. Where would you put that receipt or business card? We lose paper n ink books we've lost another rich part of what makes us what we are.

  17. justajo on June 22, 2010 at 12:06 AM

    >Being a private detective is exciting, challenging and boring all at the same time. Back in 1969-1970 I was an associate of Glenn D. Magill (written about by Curt Gentry in "The Killer Mountains") of Oklahoma City. I've often thought of writing down my experiences in those nine months but then think, nah. People can make up more believable stuff…though I must admit, some of it was quite. Oh, no. Don't get me started.

  18. Jolene on June 21, 2010 at 10:32 PM

    >It's funny that you find things in used books because any time I drop books off, I leave or write something in them – receipts, random notes I've used as bookmarks, things like that. Often just my name, or it might be a book I've lent to a friend and I've written something on it for them. I sometimes wonder – living in the small town I do – if one person has picked up several books that I've dropped off. And then I further wonder if they've realized they're all from me.

  19. Beth K. Vogt on June 21, 2010 at 10:17 PM

    >Had fun reading all the comments–and even peeked at the Forgotten Bookmarks site.
    So many people think this would be a great premise for a book. That got me thinking: I think I've read a book with this premise. Now I have to go ransack my bookshelves and figure out what book I'm thinking of . . .

  20. Barb W on June 21, 2010 at 10:09 PM

    >It makes me sad to think that we are moving away from printed books and into e-books. Sort of similar to moving from hand-written notes to email.

  21. Anonymous on June 21, 2010 at 10:02 PM

    >I used to so this; I especially bought used books during my graduate studies to glean insights from the "ones that went before." Now I find myself buying books repped by the agents I covet. I read books I truly have no interest in trying to figure out what they have that I have missed. It's a long road, and I am taking all the detours and reading all the road maps. Thank you for your love of book and your dedication to authors. You continue to inspire me!

  22. Amy on June 21, 2010 at 9:54 PM

    >This was such a beautiful post, Rachelle. You had me thinking about what thing I may have possibly left behind in a book too. 🙂

  23. Kimberley Troutte on June 21, 2010 at 9:14 PM

    >The best used book I ever bought was written by my children's great-great grandfather (on my husband's side). I was thrilled to find it on ebay. Even better when it arrived there was an inscription inside "To Robert, from John." written, I suppose, by his own hand.

  24. Jon Kukla on June 21, 2010 at 8:17 PM

    >My second niftiest discovery happened one spring day in the late 90s, while doing research about the Louisiana Purchase at the Tulane University library. Some student must have been thinking about graduation and drafted a message (on half a page of lined spiral notebook paper) to his/her parents, thanking them for their support and the sacrifices that made it possible for him/her to graduate. Hope s/he copied it onto a nice sheet of paper or a thank-you card.
    Niftiest was when I found what turned out to be a genuine George Washington letter in an old extra-illustrated volume at the Library of Virginia. . . . But that's a long story.

  25. Nikole Hahn on June 21, 2010 at 5:28 PM

    >What a pleasent interlude! Thank you for the mental pictures on such a long day at work today. :o)

  26. Heather on June 21, 2010 at 4:42 PM

    >I enjoy finding the things in used books too. I've never found anything spectacular, but one of my best friends has a neat story. She's good at finding 4 leaf clovers, and once while browsing a used bookstore, she found 16 of them tucked in an old Harold Bell Wright novel! She bought the book, of course. :0)

  27. Nicole on June 21, 2010 at 3:38 PM

    >That's something those who exclusively read eBooks miss out on, unfortunately.

  28. Timothy Fish on June 21, 2010 at 3:34 PM

    >I can see that people are chomping at the bit to write a story with this concept. It might be worth pointing out that other writers have used similar concepts, if they didn’t use this exact concept. The 1998 made for television movie The Love Letter was based around the concept of a guy purchasing a desk that had a letter in it. I imagine there are other similar stories.

    The Love Letter got off into the concept of time travel with the two owners of the desk writing back and forth, but there’s no reason that would have to be the case. Simply having the notion to write a book about finding something in a book hardly makes for a plot. I suppose we could all write such a book and all have different plots. I just did a search of the Internet and happened to see this story about a six year old who wasn’t supposed to know she was dying, but she hid notes around the house for her family to find after she died (true story).

  29. Brother Cysa Dime on June 21, 2010 at 2:02 PM

    >I like old books that are out of print and so buy them from internet used bookstores. I find it interesting how the previous owner(s) made notes and underlines. Some of the copies are physically 100+ years old.

  30. Valerie on June 21, 2010 at 1:52 PM

    >I just signed up with the website 'bornfreebooks'. You select a book off your bookshelf, place one of their stickers on the inside front cover with their website on it, then leave it somewhere in a public place….coffee shop, park bench, etc. Then you go online and register the title of the book and where you left it. Whoever picks up the book reads it and then does the same. You can track the journey of your book online. It's such a neat concept, and its fun to watch where books have ended up!

  31. Rachel M. on June 21, 2010 at 1:24 PM

    >I've always loved finding things in an old book, too. Once I found an old metal protractor with someone's initials on it (it was avocado green, so I'm guessing it came from the 60s), in a Beverly Cleary book. I used it all through high school.

    The worst thing I've ever found in a book was used kleenex (gluing the pages together)! Who would use something like that for a bookmark!?

    I once got to look at my great-grandmother's Bible, which she carried to church every Sunday for many years after she found Jesus in the 30s. I especially liked passages with "Fulfilled on this date 3-10-1948" etc. written in the margins. Wonder what happened on that day, so long ago?

    There were a lot of things like that all through that old Bible. Notes in Bibles give us a window into the spiritual lives of our predecessors. There are a lot of good lessons to be found!

  32. Bernita on June 21, 2010 at 1:10 PM

    >Yes. I feel the same.

  33. Carrie Turansky on June 21, 2010 at 12:58 PM

    >This is a great premiss for a novel! Did one of your clients already claim it? : )

  34. Marybeth on June 21, 2010 at 12:56 PM

    >I find strange stuff in library books. I feel the same way as you Rachelle, like a voyeur. But you're right, we can't help they left it in there!! Once I found a photo and I worried that it was special to the person. Thanks for this blog post. It was thought provoking and I have signed up to follow Forgotten Bookmarks as a result!

  35. Vicki Rocho on June 21, 2010 at 12:50 PM

    >You struck a nerve today! I love used book stores because you never know what you're going to find. You can hit any Barnes & Noble and know pretty much the titles you'll find there. But in a used book shop, it changes by the day!

    I like to leave Post-It notes inside when I'm giving books away. Maybe with the date, maybe with the location or an encouraging quote.

  36. Julie Weathers on June 21, 2010 at 12:19 PM

    >I love old books. I bought a bible off ebay that wasn't in very good shape, but it was from the 1850's and it had lots of notes written in the margins. The owner often commented on how their pastor brought a passage to life for her. If it were so frail, I would probably use it daily. As it is, it's a special treat and journey to the past.

  37. Pam Halter on June 21, 2010 at 11:50 AM

    >I've never found anything in a used book … that makes me sad. But I was thinking the same thing as Kay; maybe I'll start leaving bookmarks or notes in the books I've decided to pass along.

  38. Timothy Fish on June 21, 2010 at 11:31 AM

    >Not that I would drop them off at a library or a used bookstore, but the place I tend to leave stuff more than any other is in Bibles. Like a lot of people, I have several Bibles around the house, but one that I use regularly. Occasionally I’ll open one of the others looking for something and I’ll find an old program or a newspaper clipping that I will have forgotten about. I’ve never been one to write notes in my Bible, but it fascinates me when people talk about some of the notes they have from decades past or things they found written in the Bibles of their parents or grandparents.

  39. Kristin Laughtin on June 21, 2010 at 11:22 AM

    >There's just something cool about holding a book in my hand and reading the words, knowing that someone else held that very same book.

    Very much so! This is why I love buying used books with wear on the spine; it's visible evidence that the book was enjoyed, even on the cover. The more worn, the more the book was probably enjoyed. I don't care if my used books look "pretty" (although oddly enough, I try to take very good care of books I buy new).

  40. Kay Day on June 21, 2010 at 11:09 AM

    >I was going to mention the forgotten bookmarks website, too. The lady owns a used bookstore and finds all kinds of things and posts pictures of them.
    She also gives away books.

    I think I'm going to intentionally start leaving notes in books for the next reader. Maybe I'll start a trend. Wouldn't that be fun? If every library book had a little message tucked in somewhere.
    Of course, as nasty as some people can be, I guess it wouldn't always be fun.

  41. Rowenna on June 21, 2010 at 11:07 AM

    >My favorite part about the (very old) books I tend to buy are the things that fall out of them–notes, doodles. Someone's very aged algebra homework (tucked into a copy of Tennyson's poems…too late to turn it in, I suppose).

  42. lauradroege on June 21, 2010 at 11:06 AM

    >A college professor once loaned me his copy of Ethan Frome (by Edith Wharton). I enjoyed reading his scribblings in the margins of the pages, getting that insight into how his mind worked and contrasting it with my reactions to the text.

    My copy of Moby-Dick was a hand-me-down from my mother, who received it in college as a hand-me-down. She was an English major at a small college, and received all of her textbooks/books for her major from an older couple whose son had attended that college. He had died, and his parents gave all of his books for his area of study to my mother.

    So when I read Moby-Dick, I got to read his notes in the margins, read observations that had to have been gleaned from his Christian prof, and add my own notes and insights from my professor.

    (I used this copy for reference while I wrote my master's thesis on MD and much, much later, when I wanted to quote Captain Ahab in my novel-in-progress. Hey, one of my characters is an American lit prof. Guess what her specialty is?)

  43. Erica Vetsch on June 21, 2010 at 10:56 AM

    >Silly as it is, I do this to myself! I'm a big believer in bookmarks, and I'm liable to grab any handy piece of paper to mark my place. Receipts, business cards, coupons. Then, when I go back to re-read the book, I find the bookmark. Insurance agent's business card, coupon that expired in 1999, receipt for a Christmas toy I bought my kids years ago.

  44. Reena Jacobs on June 21, 2010 at 10:50 AM


    You asked on twitter "Authors: How do you respond when you see your book on a thrift store or used bookstore shelf?"

    I'm speaking from an unpublished author's viewpoint. Honestly, I wouldn't mind finding my book on a thrift or used bookstore shelf. I know someone purchased it and hopefully loved it. Now they're recycling it for someone else to enjoy.

    I accept not everyone is a pack rat like me. I have books on my shelf I know I'll never read again, but can't force myself to give them away because I'm addicted to things. Truthfully, I have books I've never read and won't read on my shelf. I'm that bad.

    Last week I left the used bookstore with over $40 worth of books. I could hardly contain my excitement with one of my purchases. I saw a collect of books which brought memories of my childhood. I felt like a kid again! To think someone might have the same kind of excitement in something I write, would be wonderful. Other books I picked up because I wanted to try an unfamiliar author, but didn't want to pay $7-25 for the lotto. In the end, it's a great way for me to become addicted to a series and splurge on the author's new books. I view used bookstores as opportunities waiting to happen.

    One thing for sure, I'd rather have my books recycled in a used bookstore than sent to a discount store because no one wanted to buy it in the first place, and the publishers are selling it for pennies on the dollars just so they can recoup a fraction of the cost they put into producing the book.

  45. unmoderated on June 21, 2010 at 10:39 AM

    >I feel like I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't mention this:

  46. Liberty Speidel on June 21, 2010 at 10:36 AM

    >I recently borrowed a bestseller from the library, by a local Kansas City author whom I've met several times, and was surprised to find she'd autographed it, as well as put a personal note to the person she was signing it for. Since the date of the inscription was after the date in the book of when the library picked it up, I have to wonder what kind of person would take a LIBRARY book to a book signing! There were even notes in the book from the library about it having been written in. My husband and I were both astounded to see this. But, it was still pretty cool, especially since it seemed the author was well acquainted with the person she inscribed the book to.

  47. mary bailey on June 21, 2010 at 10:23 AM

    >I loved this post. I'm in the habit of flipping through my books before I put them in the return box at the library, just in case I've forgotten to remove a personal note or list or receipt I used as a bookmark.

    Once my son picked up a children's book at random in the library and a photo of my friend and her family floated out of it, so I was able to return it to her.

    Really, Rachelle, I *love* this post. This little glimpse reveals your heart for books and those who read and write them.

  48. Sandy Ardoin on June 21, 2010 at 9:58 AM

    >One time I found a photograph of two teenage girls, obviously good friends. I returned the book with the photo still inside in case one of the girls went back looking for it. But it made me wonder just what I've left in books I've checked out over the years or ones I've given away.

  49. Kendra Leigh Patterson on June 21, 2010 at 9:50 AM

    >The best thing I ever discovered was the following inscription in a very old copy of the Rubaiyat (which as a child I had only chosen because it looked so old): "Creeds and prejudices may govern the mobs, but to the high-hearted rebel goes the joy of existence." I have tried to live by it ever since, and I have also learned to appreciate the book!

  50. Susan B. on June 21, 2010 at 9:43 AM

    >Rachelle, you've just described a great idea for a book and movie. If you don't write it, I might.

    Imagine this: A heartbroken woman's husband recently dies. She's devastated and in her grief wanders in a secondhand bookstore. In her search for solace she purchases a book about women who have lost the love of their lives. Each woman leaves, lets say five, a memento (a pressed flower or picture) to remind them of that person.

    She realizes that there has to be a story behind each one of these mementos. She decides to use her imagination and create five separate stories of these women. This becomes a therapeutic avenue for her.

    The losses of these women could span over several decades starting from the 60's on up or even lower.

    This is a great idea that could turn in a bestseller and a great movie!

  51. Kathleen on June 21, 2010 at 9:32 AM

    >Love this post so much. I think one of the most interesting (and a little heartbreaking) things I've ever found were in a copy of one of the Post Secret books. Someone had written their own secrets in purple gel pen on scraps of paper and slipped them inside the book.

  52. Timothy Fish on June 21, 2010 at 9:29 AM

    >In college, we rented our textbooks for $12 each and many of the students weren’t very good about removing stuff before they returned their books. I took an architecture class and in the textbook I found some negatives someone had left behind (before digital cameras were worth buying). One of the requirements for the class was paper, with pictures, discussing the architecture in downtown St. Louis. I went to St. Louis and took pictures, but when I got the film developed I got the negatives I found developed also. As I recall, I used one of the pictures from the negatives.

    One time I bought a used book because it was out of print. When I received it, I opened it up and inside I found that it had been signed by the author. The author had included some brief note to the person. I found that disappointing because the original book owner didn’t care enough about having a signed copy of the book and a note from the author to hang onto the book.

  53. Blabber Books on June 21, 2010 at 9:28 AM

    >I found a four-leaf clover taped inside the front cover of the Complete Works of Jane Austen, a sonogram picture tucked between the pages of a first-time father book and (my favorite) I checked a book out from my high school library and found a receipt inside. The receipt belonged to a boy I had a hopeless crush on and written on the back was a list of girls he was planning on asking to the homecoming dance. My name was not on the list.

  54. jo swartz on June 21, 2010 at 9:21 AM

    >Lovely post! Definitely one of the best things about buying used books is the people and hands that read it before. I collect old and rare books, so have found so many wonderful things over the years including leaves, flowers, hymnal pages from church, letters. I love looking at bookplates, inscriptions, and the beautiful scrawl of the quill pen that the owner marked their name with. There is a connection to someone else that happens when the previous reader has left a trace of themselves behind that feels like a connection across time.

  55. MJR on June 21, 2010 at 9:14 AM

    >"I love this 'permanent' aspect of paper-and-ink books. They can almost become like living entities, as they get passed around from hand to hand."

    That's what I love about printed books, too. I'm reading a wonderful book on my ereader right now, but I wish I had bought it as a printed book so the book could passed from one person to another. I don't have much room in my apt so I donate almost all my books to the library or to our local used bookstore. I like knowing that the books will be read by other people.

  56. Rachel on June 21, 2010 at 8:33 AM

    >Love this post. I know just what you mean. I found a potential story plot sketched out on a little piece of paper with a Zantac heading on it tucked into the leaves of a book I'm reading now. So vulnerable and naked. I just wanted to cup my hands around the paper like a little flame. Great post.

  57. Jan Morrison on June 21, 2010 at 8:28 AM

    >I love this post!!! Yes, I've found bits and pieces too and like Cheryl I always want to put little notes in the books from the library. But I don't. Maybe I will, starting today! Ephemera is so entrancing.

  58. Cheryl Barker on June 21, 2010 at 8:22 AM

    >What a window into your heart for books and readers, Rachelle. Makes me wonder if I should start leaving a little something behind on purpose! 🙂

  59. Teenage Bride on June 21, 2010 at 8:15 AM

    >What a lovely post. I have often times left a book in a coffee shop with a note on the back cover giving my thoughts on the book. I ask whoever picked it up, to read it and pass it along, in the hopes that my book and and my note will reach others and bring them the joy or excitement that the book brought me. I just love the idea of having a connection with complete strangers through common reading material.

  60. Jessica Nelson on June 21, 2010 at 8:05 AM

    >This is such a beautiful post, in so many different ways.
    I always love when library books have a receipt or library receipt in them. I like to look at the list and wonder about the person who checked out those books, or bought a particular product.

  61. Sharon A. Lavy on June 21, 2010 at 7:42 AM

    >This brings nostalgia to mind. I have such a large stack of TBR books that I have neglected our local library. I need to stop in from time to time and just inhale.

  62. Sarahsalt on June 21, 2010 at 6:38 AM

    >The best thing I ever found in a book was several roses worth of pressed petals–yellow. Was it a bouquet given to a lover? a mother? a friend? The gift was dear enough to press the petals, so why are they still in the book? A broken engagement? A death? Oh, I love, love, love giving a good home to homeless books.

  63. Jason on June 21, 2010 at 6:37 AM

    >I have some books that belonged to my grandpa…I'm not just saying this for effect, but because it's true…I never really saw my grandpa as a complete person (rather than just someone in relation to myself) till I read through the notes and ideas he marked in his books.

    Since then I began to keep notes in my own books…even the fiction ones. Maybe one day my legacy will get to know me through the way my books have affected my life as well…

    Great post Rachelle!

  64. Wendy Paine Miller on June 21, 2010 at 6:22 AM

    >Recently I grabbed up a piece of furniture (I know furniture is different than a book, but this will have a point I promise) I knew had potential to be beautiful. I wiped away all the dust, killed the spiders and got my paint ready. I opened the inside drawer to find two things. One, a string of swears written in blue ink. Two, an authentic stamp burned into the wood. As I painted the piece a lovely Lost Atlantis blue, I thought of this end table in some teenager’s room—a teenager who had tired of it and freely beat up on it. Again, I know it’s not a book, but every time I refurbish furniture I can’t help but think about God and His work in our lives. I wonder if some ways it is the same with library and discounted books.
    ~ Wendy

  65. WRITER'S LOUNGE on June 21, 2010 at 6:18 AM

    >I couldn't agree more with you love of used books and used book bookstores. They cost less, and so many of my favorites are out of print, and I far prefer the flavor of a dusty old shelf in a back room to Ebay. I've never found anything left behind, but frequently bits of writing here and there on a page or the back or the cover. Most of all I agree with the warmth and feel of a used book, a shared thing, sort of a mystery. Thanks for relating this. I enjoyed it.

    Larry Pinaire

  66. Buffy Andrews on June 21, 2010 at 6:14 AM

    >Just had to comment on your post, Rachelle. I love finding old things, too. I just posted this morning on my blog about two autograph books I found from 1933-34 and 1935. It is absolutely fascinating reading. As I read what classmates wrote, I wonder what became of them. About their hopes and dreams and if their lives turned out the way they had planned. I'm honored to now be the keeper of such treasures that provide a peek into the past, a side of it we rarely have the opportunity to see. Blessings, Buffy

  67. Lisa Jordan on June 21, 2010 at 6:12 AM

    >While visiting my son at college last fall, we walked into a small independent bookstore. The scent of paper wafted through the air. Both of us stepped inside and inhaled deeply.

    I love libraries and used bookstores too. I borrowed a book from the library and found a clipping from Ann Landers. Someone seeking advice had misplaced this snippet of wise council.

    By the way, I'm sure Stephanie Plum would attend a monthly PI meeting if doughnuts were being served. 🙂

  68. Lydia Sharp on June 21, 2010 at 6:03 AM

    >What a lovely post! My husband has a tendency to leave things in his library books as bookmarks, and it has become a habit of mine to shake out his books before returning them. So far I haven't found anything as interesting as you have, whether in his books or someone else's. However, I do see the different colored stains more often than I'd like to, and my reaction is usually "ICK!." 🙂

  69. Katie Ganshert on June 21, 2010 at 5:47 AM

    >Yesterday, I found a cut out comic strip hanging on our refrigerator, only we don't get the newspaper. So I asked my hubby, "What's this about?" And he said he found it in his library book and thought it was funny.

    So my hubby seems to appreciate those things left behind just as much as you do! (and I like them quite a bit too)

  70. Jess of All Trades on June 21, 2010 at 5:25 AM

    >I love used books and I love finding messages for the same reasons! I was in an antique store recently and saw a book of works by Tennyson, printed Way Back When. It had a name handwritten in it..whoever had owned it Way Back When, in beautiful, clean calligraphy.
    I thought it was Amazing. Some young man had treasured this book.
    (The antique store treasured it too! I couldn't afford to buy it 😐 ) But it was a neat thing…

  71. Emily Cross on June 21, 2010 at 5:13 AM

    >This is what I love about used books. I did apost about this about a year ago, I bought two poetry books (both with notes inside) one (which was a book of love poems) had this love poem written inside which was an original by 'Mark', and a note to the person (mark) saying they loved them and will never forget them. It was signed with a female polish name, but was in english with 'dublin 98' beside it. Talk about star crossed lovers!

  72. Joyce Magnin on June 21, 2010 at 5:11 AM

    >Hey Rachelle: Um, I think there might be a novel in this blog.

  73. Krista Phillips on June 21, 2010 at 4:59 AM

    >How sweet! I don't think I've ever found anything in a library book (except, of course, for the dog-ears:-)) Evidently I have very attentive librarians who "clean" them out.

    THANK YOU though for sharing your treasurers!

  74. Jo on June 21, 2010 at 4:07 AM

    >Hi I'm a South African follower, currently based in North Africa. I go home every three months on a three week holiday. On one such trip home, I found an unknown book on the bookshelf. The inscription inside was "To darling Estelle, I love you with all my heart. Yours, John" I knew this [quite modern] couple. Estelle is the MD of a large farming concern just outside town and John is the chief accountant. They were both married to other people at the time. Once they'd divorced their spouses, they became an item. Three months later he was killed in an aircraft crash. I wonder what happened to the book? How it got into my house? Did John lend it to my son, who is an IT manager at the same company. I never found out and I never saw the book again. I enjoy your blog: I follow you from an address when I read about you in Writers Digest.

  75. JamesBrett on June 21, 2010 at 3:20 AM

    >i kind of do the same thing with bowling shoes and roller skates. whenever i'm at the lanes or the rink, renting shoes, i like to keep whatever the person before me left behind.

    usually it's dirty socks.

    but i keep those socks… to remind me of the real people out there who go bowling.

  76. Nicole MacDonald on June 21, 2010 at 2:43 AM

    >I love second hand book shops for this reason too 🙂 you never know what you'll find

  77. Jade on June 21, 2010 at 2:42 AM

    >I once found an old postcard in a book on Man O War and posted it to the address on it. A week later I received a letter from them (this was the pre-email days) thanking me for returning the postcard and saying that it bought back fond memories of a childhood friend (presumably the one who'd sent her the card in the first place) who'd died a few years ago.

  78. writer jim on June 21, 2010 at 2:39 AM

    >One day God shocked me. Out of the blue He told me to write a book. I could hardly believe it; so I asked God for a sign. I asked Him to let my finger point to a specifc word in a specific verse.
    I closed my eyes, flipped my Bible open at random and pointed. I looked, and God had caused it to happen.
    Then the Lord spoke and told me to get every Bible in our house and do likewise. All six Bibles happened exactly the same. I was in awe beyond words.
    Then the Lord reminded me that there was one Bible I had forgotten about in our den room. It was a real old one inheireted from a distant relative. I found it, closed my eyes flipped it open and pointed at random. I opened my eyes to find my finger in Genesis, rather than Luke. But when I looked my finger again was on the same word in the same verse in Luke. Long ago someone had accidently tore out part of a page in Luke and stuck it in Genesis.
    I've often wondered when and how and who tore out that page.

  79. ardeeeichelmann on June 21, 2010 at 2:39 AM

    >I love old and used books…I have found WWII ration coupons, love letters on onion skin stationary, stamps, grocery lists and yes, the original sales receipt from when they were written by hand. I love finding this treasures and wonder how the come to be left behind in books that end up at library sales, garage sales and thrift stores. It is voyeuristic and yet an adventure. Thanks for starting this discussion. Ciao, Ardee-ann

  80. Kimberly on June 21, 2010 at 2:10 AM

    >This is exactly why I've been hesitant to embrace the whole E-reader thing. Nothing replaces the feel, smell, or history of an old book. I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one who appreciates it:)

  81. Anonymous on June 21, 2010 at 2:04 AM

    >I like to hunt for books I've given up at Half-Price books, checking in to see if they've sold yet. Once I found a forgotten receipt still inside with the original date I'd purchased it–a trip back in time! Most are long gone so I hope they're being read and appreciated by their new owners.

  82. catdownunder on June 21, 2010 at 1:50 AM

    >I once found one of my own books. My mother had given a lot of them away (without my permission) and there it was. I rescued it of course.

  83. T. Anne on June 21, 2010 at 1:32 AM

    >I'm constantly finding food smeared in my library books. I don't get this because I don't eat when I read, but apparently I'm the only one. My biggest pet peeve is finding stray hairs. Honestly I could outfit a toupee with the consistency of this find.

    Once in a children's book I found a letter addressed to no one in particular. It said something to the effect of, 'tonight my mom sat us all down and told us she gave up a baby for adoption a long time ago. He's all grown up now and he wants to meet us.'
    It gave me goose bumps, and I wondered how things worked out for them.

    Another time I found my initials on a bright pink post it tucked in the middle of a book. Beneath it in giant letters the chapter was entitled "let go". It made me wonder what exactly I should be cutting lose.

    Fun topic! And yes, the underlining in library books always baffles me. It does make me look twice at the passage though.

  84. Anne Lang Bundy on June 21, 2010 at 1:30 AM

    >You are so very much more than an agent, Rachelle. Were I not already a writer, your words should compel aspiration to such achievement.

  85. Lauren on June 21, 2010 at 1:16 AM

    >I once found a book at a used bookstore with an inscription from someone's mother. I was quite curious as to how such an item had come to be in the used bookstore. Did this person not care about her mother? Had the mother died? Did she die?

    In another, I found in Louise DeSalvo's book on writing and personal healing, I found someone had underlined and written in block letters "To get the poison out of me" and I began to wonder again what had happened.

    I have tinkered with the idea of writing short stories about how these items came to be in my possession instead of the person they were meant for.