Daily Archives: September 14, 2007


Some day my postman is going to ask me what the heck I do for a living, that I have so many padded envelopes of books coming to my door, some of them quite bulky. And I will say that I am a writer, and I research a lot, and nine times out of ten the perfect book I need is out of print or unavailable at an easily-reached library or too damned expensive to buy new, and so I order them secondhand on-line. I prefer to have my own copy of something I’m likely to use extensively for research, as it eliminates the renewal issue and the losing-the-book-to-a-reserve possibility, and I can plaster it with sticky-notes to my heart’s content.

I have scored a copy of Barbier’s Vivaldi’s Venice, for which I paid $6 CDN. Huzzah!

(This means nothing to most of you, I know. It’s not like it’s a popular book. It just happens to be exactly what I needed.)

This book still has the original shipping slip inside the front cover. It was a comp copy for a Toronto newspaper editor in 2004. The book then somehow found its way down to Georgia to the secondhand retailer from whom I purchased it. I love finding notes or shopping lists or train tickets or boarding passes in secondhand books. It makes the person who owned them so real, and yet so mysterious. Who were they? Did the book make their trip from Oslo more enjoyable? What was their relationship to the Marie about whom they made a note on this scrap of paper, and what did they buy her for her birthday in the end? What did this journalist think of the book? Was it read for a review (unlikely, as the book doesn’t feel as if it’s ever been opened) or was it requested out of personal interest?

I like knowing that human beings still read, that books play a role in their lives. And I like to imagine the journeys that books have made.