The pleasure of reading a used book

My Mom (MomJo!) has a magnetic attraction to consignment shops. She shops for herself, for others, for us her kids who don’t want a single blessed new thing but will receive them anyway. 

While waiting for MomJo at a Goodwill location near us I wandered over to the book section and found a Marianne Williamson book, The Age of Miracles.

Here’s what I enjoy about reading certain used books  the ones where the previous readers underlined and made notes. Seeing what caught the mind of the first reader added impact for me. Like someone saying, “Hey, pay attention to this part.”

In Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, the characters follow in the footsteps of a traveler from an earlier century, Arne Saknussemm, and experience all kinds of mad adventures tunneling deeper and deeper into the earth (you know, dinosaurs and such). 

At every point where they lose hope or feel all is lost, they come upon an AS inscribed in the rock somewhere, alerting them to the explorer who went before them on a similar journey. Coming across his initials engendered sweet reassurance.

Reading a used book is like that. Every time I come upon an underlined passage I get a tiny thrill. This, right here, was important to someone! I inevitably read the underlined passage more carefully, groping for its significance.

Such is the joy of reading the used Marianne Williamson book.

Maybe a decade ago I was over at my brother’s home and came across a book someone had given him, by liberal theologist Bishop John Shelby Spong. It opened Jesus back up to me, someone who simply didn’t get the anti-homosexual agenda, the obsessiveness over abortion, and the emphatic insistence on low taxes for the wealthy that Jesus must have obviously made the center point of his ministry because of those issues’ primacy among the loudest Jesus followers.

What a pleasure it was to follow in the footsteps of my own Arne Saknussemm in that book. The previous owner not only underlined critical thoughts, she underlined them twice and even three times for emphasis! She made notes in the margins. She approved, she clucked, she argued, she augmented with her own thoughts.

The book gained a second author. The debate this first reader had with Spong invigorated my own reading. 

Thank you forever, unknown previous reader!

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