I started a new book yesterday.
I do that a lot, actually. It’s one of the things that make my world a pleasant place, so I try to get there as often as possible.
This one was a library sale pick-up. A couple times a year our local public library weeds out its collections with book sales. They don’t go by any particular merit as to what to keep and what to get rid of, as far as I can tell. It’s pure democracy. Anything that doesn’t get checked out after a given period of time goes onto the chopping block.
This tends to work in my favor, I find. The books that get ignored are often the best ones, popularity being a poor predictor of substance or artistic quality. Given that the most popular book section in the library is the Romance section (believe me, I know – I was forced to shelve it for most of the three years I worked there, in part I suspect as a punishment for being the sort of troublemaker who answers questions honestly), this leaves many high quality selections for me come book sale time.
This book in particular is an older China Mieville novel, one that I have meant to read for a while and which, for four bits, was mine in hard cover. If you haven’t read China Mieville, you should. He writes deeply intriguing books that are rewardingly complex. They are not for the lazy, however. Nobody does alien quite like Mieville, either. Most authors have Other characters who are just ordinary people in funny suits, but Mieville’s Others are alien to the point of near incomprehensibility and part of the fun is bending your brain trying to figure them out.
Tucked inside was a bookmark from the last person who checked it out. It was a scrap of paper, a shipping invoice, with the recipient and sender clearly marked.
I don’t know who the recipient is, though I know they live in Our Little Town, not too far from me. There isn’t anything all that far from anything else in this town, really. They buy things from one of the many catalogues that we also get, though I don’t know if we ever have. We get a lot of catalogues, many of them absurd, though this one is on the more normal end of the catalogue spectrum.
Things like this always make me wonder about the name on the paper – what they thought of the book, why they chose it, whether they even finished it. But you can’t really ask them. People get a little weirded out when you track them down like that.
Although sometimes they appreciate it. I once found a thick bunch of legal documents inside a different library book, one that the library still owned and I had just checked out. They had all been prepared by a local law firm, and I dropped them off there one afternoon. They promised to send the documents along, as well as a note to the client to be more careful next time.
I ended up tucking the bookmark back inside the book. I may just leave it there, as a reminder of – what? That other people enjoyed this book before me? I don’t know.
Maybe because it just makes the book that much more interesting.