Things You Find In Old Books

There are those bookworms who are eternal e-reader cheerleaders, and then there are those — dare I say the rest of us? — whose pursuit of stories and sentences make them card-carrying members of Team Book, the people who prefer real books to e-readers. Call us materialists: we don't care about the untold grossness of libraries. We like every grubby thing about books, their smell and their coziness and their amazing/awful cover art, and we really, really like how books invite us to personalize them.

Call it graffiti appeal. Whether you're underlining a favorite passage or basically live-tweeting, luddite-style, your reading experience, there's something addictive about reading and creating marginalia, what Billy Collins calls in his poem on the subject, "[seizing] the white perimeter as our own." Books so impress themselves on us it's only appropriate the relationship be reciprocal.

On the other hand, we bibliophiles also totally revere the objects of our adoration. We remove dust jackets to keep them pristine, use bookmarks, and stress when a brand-new title arrives with a creased or crinkled page let alone a fingerprint smudge. The very thought of defiling a favorite passage with an underline or an asterisk can be a nails-on-chalkboard situation. Yet, despite all efforts, books reflect their owners. Take an old friend off your shelf and you'll discover all kinds of random delights, including these 10, inside:

1. Adorable Photos

Most of us keep our pics digital, but every now and then an old-school snapshot arrives (thanks, Mom) in your life. If it's not immediately frame- or album-worthy, odds are you've slipped it inside your favorite book. (Hey, it'll stay flat!)

2. Writing That Makes You LOL

It's amazing how even just glancing at a particularly hilarious passage can make you crack up all over again.

3. Postcards And Letters

I'm pretty sure this just reveals how disorganized and sentimental I am, but when I get a postcard from a friend it goes the route of the unframeable snapshot. Let's be honest: a note to a stranger is one of the best things you can discover inside a used book, too, so I'm going to assume this practice is more common than it seems.

4. Evidence Of Your Hard Work

Remember that one time you pulled an all-nighter and wrote an essay on To The Lighthouse that used multiple sources, formatted footnotes correctly, and made some seriously good points? Yeah, me neither.

5. That Bookmark You Swore You'd Never Lose

At the risk of being ostracized from the literary community, I have a confession: I don't really see the point of bookmarks. There's no shortage of scraps of paper that could just as easily serve the same purpose. Maybe I'm just jaded: when I was a kid, I'd perpetually buy or get gifted those plasticky bookmarks with the silky tassels, only to lose them. #fail.

6. Insights About Your Past Self

So that's where you got those warped ideas about the world. Thanks, books!

7. Jewelry

This seems sorta far-fetched, but I can imagine a friendship bracelet or a slinky dangly earring getting wedged in the spine. (Actually, now that I think of it, I'm pretty sure I've actually used a necklace as a bookmark.)

8. Love Notes

For real: when we're reading together, my husband and I write each other notes or draw hearts in the margins.

9. Flowers From A Special Day

So Victorian! Pressed flowers transform any book into an instant bed-and-breakfast.

10. Pet Hair

I don't mean to be morbid or macabre, but finding fur you know belonged to a pet that's no longer with you is indisputably a welcome reminder. Maybe sad, but still heartwarming. Also, like pressed flowers, Victorian. Just, yah know, darker.

Images: Josh Felise, Matthew Wiebe, Christopher Flynn/Unsplash; Caio; Pexels