Photo Vomit [#11]: A Well-Worn Book


Finding books at a used book store could be just as fascinating as the story it holds.

I always assume that if someone bought a book, they are in essence, a book lover to the extreme. Don’t get me wrong. A book lover who borrows books from the library is just as crazy over books. But someone who spends money on a book is one who truly appreciates ownership; and seeing them lined up on a shelf is like looking at new born babies on the other side of the nursery room. So when I see books that were donated to a thrift shop, I often wondered why they gave them up.

Besides for want to create a space in an exploding book case, and all the philanthropic reasons one may have, do you ever think that owner had another motive?

Perhaps it’s Spring. And the owner woke up one day with a new lease on life. New perspective. Clean slate.

Maybe the story reminded them too much of a painful past.

Maybe the idea of reading about a pair of solemn brown eyes stabs them right in the chest.

Maybe the owner bought it on a day when she met someone special for coffee that led to a bookstore jauntโ€ฆa walk in the parkโ€ฆdinnerโ€ฆsomething more? Months later, they can hardly stand to look at each other’s eyes?

Perhaps it’s the romantic in me who reads more into a reader’s reasons. But I’d like to think that the world is full of readers who love their books so much that they can’t bear to part with them. At least, when left with no choice, and that the only reason why is to save themselves the remembrance of a heartache.

I digress.

This book, for example, looks so worn; and well-loved. It made me wonder how many owners it’s gone through since it found its way to the thrift shop? Or how many times it’s been read until its original owner decided to give it up? How many hands flipped through these pages before they decided, “I don’t want to spend $3 for this.”


This book also bears scars: nicks and curled pages. I wondered if the owner got so frustrated with the story that she or he threw it across the room in a fit of discontent and fury?

It also bears evidence that the pages got soaked.

Perhaps she was taking a bath, with her mobile on vibrate sitting listlessly on the bathroom floor. She was waiting for a call, or a text message, you see?. And when it beeped, she scrambled, and proceeded to drop the novel in the tub.

“Shit! Shit!” she says. Then picks it up, and tries to salvage the waterlogged pages.

These are the kind of things I think about when I stand in the aisle of a used book store. I must admit that it’s becoming their foremost draw.

Do you think about such things when you hold a used book in your hands?

Do you look at it and wonder, what’s your story?

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  • If only we have public libraries, I would love to borrow some books instead of buying them. I love buying books but money isn’t something that goes easily in my pocket. However, I agree with you. I love seeing my bookshelf getting stack up with book. I used to have one small bookshelf but this year, I have 5 bookshelves! Which is surprising because I only started buying books again this year. Well, I haven’t counted all the Kindle books I bought last year when I still have my Kindle.

    For me, my bookshelf is my collection and treasure. I will surely keep them until I get old, regardless if I love that book or not. Sometimes I have this thought to sell some of the books I didn’t like. I have a few series that I didn’t get to finish because book 2 or something in between didn’t go well for me. But I just can’t! I can’t let them go. I have used books that I gave to my relatives as gifts though. That’s the farthest thing I can do with letting go.

    I don’t know what these people are thinking when they decided to sell off their books. Maybe they don’t like that book anymore or it doesn’t fit on their place anymore. I don’t usually go to book sales either because in our country, most of the books in booksales are either self-help, old magazines, or school text books. If they have fiction, mostly it’s the old historical romance which is not my genre. However, if I’m looking for old kids/teen books (ie. Sweet Valley Kids, Nancy Drew, and Baby Sitter Little Sister), I go to booksales because they usually have carry these titles and cheaper too.

  • To be honest, I haven’t borrowed any book in my life! I know it’s hard to believe but it’s true! I haven’t got any book issued from the library (except for a few textbooks that I needed for my study projects) and I haven’t bought a used book or borrowed it from a friend. I either get ebooks or new physical books. That’s why I have a LOT more books in my e-reader than I’ve got in physical form ๐Ÿ˜›

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  • I love the way you think. When I see an old, tattered book, all I can think is, “How could someone treat this poor book this way!!” Yep, I’m one of those people who has to keep her books pristine – I have a hard time with used books. LOL!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  • BOOK ABUSE! lol ๐Ÿ˜€ That is all the thoughts I have about used books, hiiih (A) I just.. I do not like used books :p Not at all. Sigh. I want all my books to be brand new, hih ๐Ÿ™‚ But I do understand how you feel about them. I do. And I love love love reading your thoughts. <3 You are awesome. Thank you for sharing about it, Joy ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Christy

    I HAVE done this, and not with just books. Now I wonder if the people who wound up with my books wonder about them, where they came from. lol

  • Great post! I love to think about where my used books have been too ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Oh wow. I definitely loved how much heart there was in this post, Joy. You’ll definitely make an awesome writer. ๐Ÿ™‚ To be honest, when I go to a used bookstore, I would just pick up a book and basically never wonder why they were sold. Then just a few weeks ago, we had a book donation project thing at school. I realized there were plenty of reasons for giving books away. Maybe they want a new copy and want the old copies to find a better home. Maybe they got tired of the book. Maybe they’re just generous. I totally love your version more, though. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Alise (Readers in Wonderland)

    Wow, this is a very interesting and thoughtful post, Joy! Sometimes I do wonder what lives my used books had before so I really love this ๐Ÿ™‚ I know when I was younger I sold books just to have a little more pocket change. Who was I back then? D:

  • Naomi @ Nomiโ€™s Paranormal Palace

    I don’t have many used books stores around me, but I will think of this post when I get there, for sure!

    Naomi @ Nomiโ€™s Paranormal Palace

  • It’s nice to romanticize used stuff whether it’s books or furniture. I do the same thing when I go to estate sales, I imagine the parties that piece of furniture witnessed, make up a story on how the previous owner came by it, etc. I love this post, lady, I can totally relate.

    • Oh if furnitures could talk! I’ve wondered the same about those antiques!

      Thanks, Braine!

  • I don’t buy used books as often I should (though my dad has started remembering favourite authors or books I mention when out nosying and has picked me some up, squee!), but I LOVE your descriptions here and your take on this. It’s fabulous to think about, it’s like imaginary people watching through book owners, and I love people watching!

    I had a similar thought, but it was while watching a documentary on King Henry the VIII, and they had ACTUAL love letters he wrote to Anne Boleyn when he was pursuing her. The ACTUAL letters, and leather bound books from that time period. I was amazed they still existed and how they’d survived that long!

    R x

    • Oh my. Imagine stumbling into one of those letters? I actually found a Mark Twain book (supposedly) inscribed by Twain himself. Though I don’t really know how authentic that signature is. I guess I should get it verified.

      Thanks, Rachel!

      • You definitely should!! I’d love to stumble upon a wee gem like that!!

  • I’ve given away books that I’ve outgrown like my Sweet Valley Highs and Archie comic books, or those that I never got to reading. I give away books that I don’t plan on reading again. But definitely the main reason would be space (I have none) ๐Ÿ™‚
    For a time, I bought copies of my favorites for the main purpose of lending to friends, but they seem to never come back so I guess the best way to share book love for me these days is through hosting giveaways!
    Great post Joy, definitely made me think ๐Ÿ™‚

    • That drives me nuts! Nowadays, I don’t lend books unless I absolutely know it’s going to make it back to me. So, I’m not a popular person right now. Lol. I still have containers full of Harlequin pocket books. I really can’t part with them either, even though I don’t read much of those lately.

      Thanks, Buona!

  • This post really hit me hard. It makes me appreciate my books even more. It’s taken me a long time to build my little bookshelf and my collection so whenever I see a book in a thrift store I feel the same way that you do. There are books that I absolutely HATED, but can’t part with them because they remind me of something.

    • Aw. Thanks, Marianne. I feel the same way about those books that I didn’t really enjoy.

  • Ha , great post never really thought of it that way. Have not been in a used book store in a while thought but that book looks clearly like it carries history

    • I’ve only been going again in the last couple of weeks, and it’s primarily because I’m on the hunt for a huge series that I’d rather not buy new. ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s been an interesting trip.

  • I absolutely love the thought of knowing the history of where second hand books come from. The cracked spines, the creased pages, how many have enjoyed it before you’ve given it a new lease on life. It reminds me that second hand bookstores are a great place to not only pick up bargains, but find a little piece of history while you’re there. Awesome post. Simply loved it!

    • Thank you! I know only a few of us would be able to appreciate a worn book – or any book for that matter. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I work in a library, and I’m always curious as to what a book’s story is especially those we keep in the reference section, the older the book. But also I see some stuff that defaces books which is just horrible. But aside from that I know when I go into a used bookshop I’m always fascinated by them. Great post. I found your blog through anothers. I love your blog and I’ll look forward to talking books with you. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • My ideal job! Lucky you. ๐Ÿ™‚ I guess you’ve seen a great deal – some good and some just awful. Thank you for visiting, Emma!

  • Great post! I always wonder about second hand books when there is an inscription inside.

    • Oh I’ve seen several of those. It made me wonder, too. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • I love the history of things in general but books are definitely one that bear a lot of history at first glance when they are well loved. My H.P. paperbacks looks pretty worn (not like this but still well loved) simply because they have been handled and read so many times. Both my daughters have read them at least once and I have numerous times (like at least 8) so they do tend to show the wear regardless of how careful you are with them.

    If only they could tell their tale right?

    • Oh how wonderful for your daughters! Harry Potter is one of those modern classics that has to be a prerequisite reading for our kids. I’m still waiting for mine to get into them, since momma didn’t really read HP.

      Thanks, Ali!