Skip to main content

Pocket of Joy: Old Books

Old books! You can judge them by their shabby chic covers, because they function as objets d'art and objects of desire on a shelf no matter what stories they tell inside. Books with leather bindings, books embossed and edged in gold, books with plates and illustrations and fancy lettering inside, books that give off the subtle scent of an aged library, books with fraying ribbon markers and tactile spines. Old books are charming, comforting, and, when they aren't first edition antiques, they are usually cheap.

The stories told inside of old books can also be wonderful and so thick and rich that you can revisit them again and again, each time discovering something new or forgotten, as fans of Jane Austen and George Eliot know well. Those were stories built to last the ages.

An old book can be a roundly multi-sensory experience. I once picked up an old maiden volume by Anthony Trollope that had never been read--and I know, because I had to rustle up an antique book knife to cut apart the pages, an experience as satisfying as opening a love letter sent from a bygone time, addressed to the unlikely 21st century reader with an appreciation for cheeky 19th century literature and a mother-in-law who loves to gift funny little antique items. That novel has weight, lively illustrations, a witty tale to tell, and the light fragrance of wisdom that emanates from its soft-edged, newly sliced pages.

Old books make for unique and special gifts for all occasions. Buying used items saves resources, supports small businesses, keeps history alive, and makes a warm personal statement to the recipient. And did I mention they're usually cheap? It's the effort of the hunt that makes them valuable, not the price tag. One of my favorite-ever gifts that I've received is a set of leather-bound and illustrated volumes of Ekkehard by Joseph Victor Von Scheffel, which my husband found for me. They are shabby, old library castoffs, and I love them.

The Unitarian Universalist church where I work used to have a little used bookstore inside (now we do periodic large used book sales instead) where I have purchased many old books for under $1. It has been a treasure trove of everything from delightfully saucy romances to the most transcendent literature. The people who donate their well-loved reading material at the church are a mix of free thinkers, hippies, intellectuals, academics, spiritual seekers, scientists, and world travelers, so the selection is filtered through the minds and personal bookshelves of a smart and quirky community. One of my friends once picked up the complete works of the Marquise de Sade there. (Obviously this is not your typical church bookstore.) I once nabbed a 150-year-old illustrated antique gardening book for 75 cents. 

The secret to donating or giving away a used book of your own is not to unload the junk you simply don't want because it is trash. Those volumes, including out-of-date textbooks and anything moldy, should go to the recycling center or contribute to the warmth of a wood stove fire. Books that you pass along to a new reader should be objects of beauty and/or truth that you wish to share, that you have loved or at least respected, which you would recommend with your heart and soul. Giving or donating a book that has meant something to you is to give the gift of an experience as well as a beautiful thing. And if you give directly to a friend who is interested in reading, you can extend that meaning and experience by discussing it together afterward.

It's even more interesting than discussing a TV show you've both binge-watched, I promise.

Happy reading and sharing!

Comments

  1. This is one of the greatest ideas ever. I could spend hours in used book stores. My only problem is that there are so many I want that I just can't carry them all. What a find! Enjoy!

    Lonni

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ah, the dangers of finding a great gift idea--it's so tempting to shop for yourself, too! I have such a huge pile of used books at home now, I need to make a donation drop-off and send some of them back.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

35 Great Things About Turning 35

The prime of life starts at 35! It's the best-kept secret from younger people, but your 35th birthday is a major cause for celebration. For mine, I have made my own listicle of 35 reasons why experts agree that 35 is the best age to be: You get to say, "I'm 35." The number 35 carries so much more gravitas than 30, but you're only a few years older. At 34, I've started fudging my age--by adding a year. People automatically take me seriously, and if they don't, at least they tell me I look young for my age. (Eye roll, hair toss, "whatever.")    35-year-olds DGAF. Inner chill reaches new heights at 35. Despite its #2 status on this list, it's the #1 response I hear about what's best about hitting 35. My gorgeous friend Nerlie was beautiful and resilient and wise beyond her years in high school, but now, at age 35, she gets to fully enjoy being herself on her own terms. She writes,  "I've survived so much that I don't

$Monday: Bog Witch Style on a Budget

Autumn in a pandemic is the perfect time to tap into your inner bog witch with wild hair, cozy clothes, forest rituals, creepy cats, fire, books of spells, and Dark Cottagecore home decor mood boards on Pinterest . You don't have to live in a literal swamp. The word "bog" comes from a Gaelic term for "soft," and it sounds nearly identical to Slavic words for gods or divinity with Proto-Slavic roots that refer to earthly fortune. Bog witches burrow into the true goodness of life nestled beneath all the hustle and polish and show of making a living. They focus on soft wealth and spiritual power. The vibe is slow, earthy, comfy, moody, sneakily seductive, maybe sticky, wise rather than smart, preferring old things to new, charming rather than impressive. It's about harmonizing with the natural environment, blending, melting, enveloping, and sinking into earthy, downward energy. Bog witchery vibes with hygge, friluftsliv , and the indigenous earth wisdom of whe

TFW You Reach the Age of a Season 1 Desperate Housewife

No matter how secure we are, we all experience moments of dread. -Mary Alice, the dead narrator of Desperate Housewives Friends, I have reached an age when I can't recognize which other people are my age, including this shifty broad in the mirror. She hasn't grown out of her teenage acne yet, and her elbows have been that wrinkly since she was 12. She has a new streak of white hair, but what trendy Gen Zer doesn't? Then again, observe the old-timey side part.  She thought this mirror might make her look like a cute pinup girl from another century, but instead she's seeing a reflection of Grandma. But doesn't Grandma look great for her age? Didn't she always? What does that mean, exactly? Anyway, she thought it would be fun to watch Desperate Housewives while folding laundry the other day, because she has never seen it before, having had no interest in the show when it was on the air, not even ironically, because she was in college when that show premiered. (She

Who Defines Success for You?

Singer-songwriter Lea Morris takes a walk with her personal concept of success in this insightful video. She contrasts the American dream of wealth, fame, and power with the idea of personal fulfillment, which can vary widely. I resonate with her personal definition of success as the ability to create and experience joy in everyday life, and I was inspired to reflect upon not only what my definition of success is but who has attempted to define success for me throughout my life and why . It's easy to recognize that "society" influences us to define success in terms of metrics on money, attention, and influence. But who actually does the dirty work of drilling those beliefs and values into our minds? Why is it so difficult for some of us to feel that we have the right to define success differently for ourselves? What significant people in our lives recorded the voices in our heads that tell us things that sometimes conflict with the quieter truths in our souls? Were we e

Pocket of Joy: Starting a Shiny New Project

Oh, the buoyant thrill of a sparkly new idea! Ooh, the giddy joy of starting in on it--like planting the first footprint on a blanket of new-fallen snow, or drawing the first line on a clean sheet of paper, or sweeping the first brushstroke of slick, wet paint across a wall! Of course, it takes follow-through to manifest a dream through the sweaty, dirty, messy middle of any big project. But when you know you can do it, you can hold onto that shiny new feeling to sustain you all the way to the finish. Here I am chiseling away at the remains of my old kitchen back in the spring, when my new kitchen lived only in my imagination. My husband and I have been working on our kitchen (with my parents' help early on) for four months now. Our summer has been a marathon of hard, sweaty, dirty work littered with setbacks, frustrations, and frequent changes of plans--including the decision to redo our main bathroom at the same time, while we're at it! Anyone who has repaired or remodeled a

Mental Health Monday: Making the Best of Depression and Dissociation

Along with most human beings, I experienced some trauma in my childhood, and I can make an educated guess that I've also inherited some genetic risk factors for mental illness; my family includes four or more consecutive generations of women who have been institutionalized for mental health reasons. I also received many opportunities to build resilience as a child; my parents provided me with more love and stability than they had experienced growing up, and they challenged me in positive ways that helped me develop traits of self-mastery and grit that protected me from sliding into addictions and disordered behavior patterns. I practiced acceptance and perseverance to get through episodes of depression, anxiety, and dissociation and to find myself in a better, not worse, situation after each one passed.  When I wrote my novel  Leirah and the Wild Man , I made use of my memories of dissociation and my ways of coping with it and applied them to my grim little title character. I thoug

Pocket of Joy: Generating $1K in 1 Month for Bookstores Just by Writing a Story

What a magical Christmas surprise! Last week, I started to feel pretty depressed after hearing anecdotally and seeing in the media that many people who identify as book lovers have suddenly and catastrophically lost their ability to actually read novels. (Yes, I realize that this is a whimsical thing to be depressed about when there is so much suffering in the world right now, but I'm sad about everything else, and yet I still can't help feeling sad about literacy too. Skip this first paragraph if you can't stand the sound of a tiny violin today--My attitude has already been readjusted.) The story goes that this decline in literacy started at the end of the 20th century with the expansion of internet culture, which wasn't just another distraction but changed people's brains on a neurological level. Then the pandemic's mental fog and toxic stress accelerated the loss of literacy. The story implied that I was a functionally extinct sort of dinosaur for having take

A Beauty, a Beast, a Slayer, and a Priest

I did it again! After the immediate "success" of my first semi-secret pandemic book release (defined as recouping the cost of file uploads to IngramSpark), I have set up another book in both hardcover and ebook formats! I'll promote my books later, if I feel like it, after the idea of holding author events becomes less perilous. For now, it's fun to hit a few buttons to make my books available to my blog readers and local book shops without investing money or time into marketing.  I released my first book, Leirah and the Wild Man , a few months ago and only told my own friends and blog readers about it--but word got out, and several local booksellers contacted me about it. Some took it upon themselves to order copies, display them prominently, and sell them to walk-in customers. And voila, within a month my hardcovers had generated $1,000 for paper-and-ink booksellers, mostly local indie shops! So satisfying. I still have no idea how many ebooks I've sold, because

Pocket of Joy: Queer Eye Season 6

My final post in the 2021 "Pocket of Joy" series, which was inspired by the one and only JVN and his commitment to embracing joyful little moments no matter what else is going on, is all about the premiere of Queer Eye Season 6 on New Year's Eve--tomorrow!! I never get tired of watching these guys swoop in and fairy dust a random person who has become stuck in the mud--one at a time, over and over, like the title character of "The Star Thrower" does, enjoying the singular salvation of each and every one. It reminds me that in every human life there is suffering and difficulty and unfair disadvantage, but there is also a limitless sea of opportunity in which to play. Getting washed up doesn't mean we're done as long as we can accept a little help diving back in there. This show is a fun reminder for everyone who has survived the past couple of years that when we're at our worst, there are so many ways in which things can get better. May we all keep o

Pocket of Joy: Two-Month Belly Dance Challenges (with results from my 20s vs. my 30s)

This summer, I'm beating the bloat and feeling better about my belly! I participated in two 30-day belly dance challenges online, first Jasirah's Belly Challenge and then a summer challenge by Mahtab of Best Belly Dance Workout . I chose these two because of the kind of challenges they were--not strenuous and sweaty but instead technically difficult. I am at a healthy weight that I want to maintain, and I am recovering from moderate to severe anemia, so I wanted to avoid anything exhausting or high-impact. This summer, I worked on balance, joint flexibility, and the kinds of technical skills that work out the brain and nervous system, and I targeted the "corset" muscles that cinch in the waist, deep beneath the outer ab muscles. I've said thanks and goodbye to the visible abs I had in my slimmer 20s, which are now obscured by an age-appropriate skim of subcutaneous belly fat that I don't want to starve myself or go under the knife to banish.  And besides, af