The short history of a used book

There’s untold history represented within every used bookstore.

Sarabeth and I visited one during our recent vacation to Galveston.

The small, two-story shop contained memories of its own history on the walls: photos of devastating flood damage from Hurricane Ike in 2008. All the shelves had collapsed to the floor, with books and wet paper strewn across the room.

I purchased a recently-published book about natural history.

The previous owner had stuffed multiple pieces of paper between some of the early pages of the book. The most notable paper was a shipping receipt which included the name of the man who’d ordered this book online in late 2018 from a bookstore in New York City.

Like many used books, this one had notes and ample annotations. The reader had a meticulous eye for catching any language that showed presumption instead of mere fact: “likely,” “probably,” “may have,” and so on were all underlined.

Nothing slipped past him.

I finally Googled his name and city. The first search result was a recent obituary about a man with a lifelong love for reading about natural history.

He’d passed away, seemingly of old age, only months before I purchased what may have been the final book he had the pleasure of reading.

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