The stories readers leave behind

books-1481403_1920Some used books, even non-mysteries, present mysteries of their own.

This summer I’ve read several. I bought two when I visited a local used book store that now carries new, unused copies of my crime novel. Several others were gifts, a nice little stack that will keep me busy for some time.

A used (pre-owned? pre-experienced?) book of fiction delivers two stories. The one that everyone reads appears in type, the same story in every bound copy. 

The readers who first consume those words create other stories and leave them behind, each one unique, in flashes and fragments of non-fiction.



A fly crushed between pages 89 and 90.

Blood on a credit card receipt.

An author’s autograph, once treasured then given away or sold for pennies on the dollar.

A phone number on the back of an envelope.

Then there are the notes. In some I see my son’s cryptic hand, in the secret language of academia. Ideas for the new syllabus, a paper, or next week’s class now months or years gone by?

Another reader checkmarks paragraphs here and there, wraps seemingly random sentences in parentheses. Yet another underlines words and phrases.

Why those words, that sentence, this paragraph? What did she mean by that? Why was that important to him?

Each reader changes the story, preparing a new experience for whoever comes next.