The Blessing of a Used Book

As it became more clear that the pandemic would be around for a while, I began to think more critically about how I use my time in positive ways. I continued to engage in the common practices–exercise, time in nature, organizing closets, finding new recipes to try etc. All have become part of my household practice. Except that is for baking sourdough bread…that’s a story for another time…

Still, I wanted to push myself in an intellectual way that would allow me to continue what I preach–life-long learning. And, then it happened. A Facebook friend was asking for book recommendations. You see, she had read 72 books since the pandemic! 72! I had read….well, that’s not really the point. The POINT is I was going to read books, a practice that was not part of my regular activities.

I do read. I read a lot, just not books. I research interventions and strategies for clients. I delve into information about my topics related to practice. I teach children how to critically read. I just don’t read books. I encourage my students to read and I had made a decision to practice what I preach.

Book reading is a complex activity. It requires sustained attention, use of memory and visualization skills and advanced processing of ideas. It is good for the mind to engage in pursuits like reading. I chose to read non-fiction and began with reading books from my favorite authors. I found a comfy chair and a quiet time in the evening. One of my sons also joined me for reading time and there we each sat, with a cup of tea and a book. I was beginning to enjoy this and getting into the groove. I had already finished a few books.

I purchased a new book Losing Your Parents, Finding Your Self which I had been meaning to read. The cost for a new book was high so I decided to buy a used copy. I remember the description “Good condition, contains some underlining”. This didn’t bother me in the least.

I began the book and I saw the first underlined section on page xxxvi.

I remember thinking “No problem, the underlining was neat and it was something that I would highlight” so I did.

As I went through the book each underlined section made sense to me. “Wow, this person and I are really in sync and they seem to really understand the art of underlining important parts of a book”. I was a feeling of satisfaction in more ways than one.

And then it happened. On page 58 there was an underlined sentence “The psychodynamic work of mourning….is a way to remember more than it is a way to say goodbye”. But, there was also an arrow pointed to the sentence. I paused-not because of the sentence, it was a powerful sentence-but because of the arrow.

  • Why was there an arrow?
  • What was the reader thinking?
  • Was I missing something?


My reading for the night was officially done but I was not done with the book. I now spent my time going through each page looking for the previous reader’s personalization on page 99 there was a”x” on page page 116 there was a “?” and on page 117 and 143was written “wrong!” and “that’s not me!”, respectively. I was now officially consumed with thoughts about the previous book’s owner.

I may never know who owned the book before me of why they chose to write or annotate as they did. Based on what little I did gather, it seems like this person is a person of faith and most likely an only child. But the unexpected journey I took with this book was fascinating and personal since the book is all about what happens to us after a parent or both parents died. In some ways I feel a kindred spirit with this anonymous reader.

I truly wish them well.

I did eventually finish the book and I am on the hunt for a new book. I might even buy another used one.

Oh and if you happen to have owned, underlined, annotated and sold a copy of Losing Your Parents, Finding Your Self, I’d love to have coffee sometime…