Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Of books and their readers

I don't often post comments on other blogs (which is no reason for you not to. ahem.), but a twitter friend (is that the correct term?) recently wrote this lovely piece, and I was prompted to. And I did, and while writing it I thought I wanted to come back to what I was writing and do a longer piece of my own on this topic at some point, but the comment seems to have disappeared altogether and I'm not quite sure what happened, so I suppose the longer piece about this is coming sooner than expected.

I'm not much of a reader, truth be told. I used to be. When I was 16, I had a lovely three months of nothing to do and spent them reading all the more traditional classics that my library had. Soon after, however, I discovered Mills & Boons and how they didn't require any thinking. And that was the end of that. While I have now moved on from them to a select few romance authors I like to think are better, the number of really good books in any other genre I've read in the years since is a pitifully short list. And then of course, the internetz happened, and so much of my reading is just online these days - blogs, articles, and whatnot.

However, even though I don't read that much, I love books. I always have, so even though I have the Kindle app on my phone full of a whole bunch of nonsensical no-thinking-required type of books, there are times when you really do want to just curl up with a book in your hands. But more than that, it's old books, books owned by others before me, books handed down to me by others, books that have a history behind them that I love most.

Which is probably why most of the books I own are from Daryaganj, or College Street, or lending libraries that were selling off their stock, from the second-hand bookshop in the airport I flew in and out of for the two years of business school, or now from Half-Price Books. Very often they've been books I'd already read, bought simply because they're favourites I like to go back to frequently.

And all of this brings me to the point I had in mind when I started this post, of reading old books, and the notes in them. I'm not one to make notes in books while reading them. Well, except for textbooks, and they don't count as far as I'm concerned anyway. The only times I have made a note in a book if there was a line that jumped out me, but that's been rare too - I was, in my teens, far more likely to carefully copy it down in a notebook full of quotes I used to maintain; these days, though, I'm more likely to post it on tumblr or goodreads!

But the notes I love, and my favourite part of owning or even browsing through pre-owned books, is the inscriptions in them. Who owned them, where and when they were bought, who gifted them to whom, and why - I love glancing into books and seeing those notes that give these books a history. Running my fingers over those names or notes always makes me wonder, and smile.

Whenever I buy a book - new or old - the first thing I do is scribble my name, the date, and where I bought it on the first page. When someone gifts me a book - new or old - I hound them till they scribble a little note inside. It's how I've got the best letters from my family, truth be told. And I do the same if I'm gifting a book to someone.

Who knows, twenty or fifty years down the line, someone will pick up a Chalet School or Georgette Heyer book somewhere, and see my name scribbled in there, and wonder. And maybe smile?

1 comment:

Farheen said...

Writing in books is something I started to do a few years back. And by writing I don't just mean scribbling my name and the date under the title....which I do immediately when I get a book. But I've started writing between the margins and its fun whenever I re-read a book to know what my thoughts were the first time I read it.
All bibliophiles have their own crazy habits. There isn't any right or wrong...the important thing is to keep reading the books. So happy reading!