For me, one of the simplest pleasures in life is going to book sales. Nothing compares to a good old used book sale. A used book sale is like a treasure hunt because you never know what to expect. Imagine, instead of opening up a treasure trove of jewels, you are the first to get your hands on the current or the most recent best sellers. You could walk away with an arm load of books by your favorite author(s), recent titles and even new interests you never thought you had. Or you could leave empty-handed.
Used book sales are an endangered species. I can’t think of too many book stores left in the city, let alone used book sales. We live in a world of technology where physical books are regarded as expensive relics from a recent past, not the valuable source of knowledge that open up eyes and broaden horizons. Yet, I love to run my fingers through each book to feel the texture of each page; and even the smell of mouldy books has a certain charm – a reminder of the history of this book and the previous owners who all left their finger prints in the pages.
And who were these owners? And why do we share the same interest in a particular biography? What is it about Alan Greenspan or Hillary Clinton that brings our fingerprints together? While digging through shelves of second-hand books, I always wonder about these generous donors: their reading habits, whether they are at all like me in terms of education and world views and whether they really did brave the 600+ pages of a politcal biography. What did they learn through their books? Am I picking up the same lessons that they did? If I could track them down, I would love to have these conversations.
Part of the appeal of a treasure hunt is that we will never know the origins of our discoveries. They could have belonged to professors, doctors, and ordinatory folks like myself with an undying thirst for reading. Unlike the endings in our mystery novels, some mysteries in this world are better left unresolved.