Questions (for a used book)

How many hands have turned your pages? Who treated you well? Who didn’t? Who read you while strolling? Who was your poorest reader? Your wealthiest? What were the circumstances that led to you missing your front cover? Do you resent carrying the advert for the film version of you on the back cover? Who circled the word “sagacity” on page 84, and did they ever discover its meaning? Who drew little animal portraits in your margins? Was this done out of boredom? What particular food or drink caused the stain on page 129? How about on 245? How many read you in a night? How many not at all? How many of your readers loved you? How many loathed you? How many put you in a box with the word “Free” written on it when they were done with you? How many gifted you to a friend? Did you cross an ocean before you reached me? Or did you live your entire existence in this city?

These are the things I want to know.


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4 thoughts on “Questions (for a used book)

  1. Miranda Stone says:

    Interesting questions indeed. I remember buying a used book and later finding some very personal notes written in the margins, and I thought to myself, “Who would have sold this to the used bookstore with all these scribbles inside for a stranger to read?”

    • I don’t make notes anymore in books, but when I was younger, in high school and college, I would. I used to still have a few of these books — the ones I loved — and it was always trippy having the personal reflections written by my high school self there when I would go to re-read a section of the book again.

  2. Bruce Goodman says:

    A lovely reflection, thanks. At my high school, the same edition of a Shakespeare text was used by the same teacher for years. There was a note in the margin: When you get to here, ask “Did they have butter back then?” and you’ll get told a joke about a little green frog!

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