Christian Schneider

Author, Columnist

Wrapped Up in Books

I have this weird habit of buying books I’ve already read.  Usually, I get a book for free from the library, read half of it, and decide whether I like it or not.  In a lot of cases, I want to highlight things for reference, just so I can come back to them later – but I can’t if it’s a library book.  So I go to the used book store to get a deal on a book that I’ve either half read or completely read.  Plus, it’s nice to have a visual reminder of what books I may have read in any given year.  Makes me feel smarter.

And for some reason, I just love used books stores – I can’t explain it, but I just like looking at books.  I look at the bindings on the shelves and try to think of how publishers try to get their authors to stand out on the shelves amongst thousands of other titles.  Then maybe if I ever get off my ass and write a book, I’ll know how it should look to trick people into buying it – as they sure as hell won’t be buying it because of what might be written in it.  I could probably bind each one of my books with a live $100 bill and still only sell about 18 of them.  I digress.

So last week I saw a book I wanted and bought it – and I’m really enjoying it quite a bit.  But as I got near the end, I realized there was a plane boarding ticket stub jammed in the back.  It’s from a flight from Chicago O’Hare to Tokyo in July of last year.  And it’s a “Premiere Executive” first class ticket, so I figured the woman whose name is on the ticket is kind of a bigshot.  So I admit, I Googled her, and as it turns out, she’s a high ranking executive at a major health care company.  So yeah, big-time.

And I can’t explain this in any rational way – but I kind of feel like I now have some odd connection to this woman.  Just months ago, she was holding this book and reading the same words on the same page that I was.  And since it’s such a good book, I kind of almost want to know what she thought of it.  We now have a shared experience, even though we’ll never meet each other in person.

So all day, it’s been kind of puzzling me why I feel like this woman and I are connected, and I came up with the following:  In the days of everything being on computers and virtually all of our interpersonal relationships taking place online, we have fewer chances to share experiences with our friends.  I can literally go through the entire day reading only the news I want, listening to the music I want, and e-mailing the people I feel like talking to.

As a result, few people I know are fluent in the exact set of things I like to talk about.  (This generally means I have different sets of friends for different topics – I have my lefty music friends and righty politics friends.  One night the two groups bumped into each other and I thought the earth was going to fall off its axis.)  But now here’s this woman who has read the very same book that I have – a book that I’ve found deeply interesting.

Of course, this is all psycho-jibberish.  If I called this woman and tried to explain this to her, I imagine the cops would be at my house before I could hang up.  But it’s really interesting to me to think about who might have owned a book before me.  It’s even weirder when you actually figure out who that person is.  Somewhere, the very words you’re reading on that page are floating around in the head of someone else, perhaps in an entirely different context.  The lesson that can be learned here is very important:  I need some better weed.


  1. I’ve always loved used book stores — browsing around Paul’s on State St is about as close as I’ll ever come to a treasure hunt, and made all the better by the cluttered, collegiate atmosphere to the place. I especially like finding books with someone else’s notes in them.

    Also, bonus points for the Belle & Seb reference. Huzzah!

  2. Locke(PeterWiggins)

    November 18, 2008 at 7:37 pm

    I don’t think it’s at all strange – one of the things I miss the most from school (lit major) was reading a book and then being able to discuss it with others reading the same thing at the same time. There’s just something very personal about taking in an author’s words and creating your own interpretation and vision of them – and when you know someone else has been through the same thing you do have a connection.

    But won’t you tell us what the book was?

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