Some years ago, I took a plane to my mother’s homeland. It was an amazing trip, but there is one day that I will never forget. We had gone to an artisan’s town by the sea. Quirky little cafés, lots of cats lounging about, friendly hipster-ish people. (Is that even a word?) 😉 Above all, there was a street market with stalls full of hand-made crafts— jewelry, painted scarves, little framed drawings of beautiful, everyday life. And, of course, a few second-hand book stalls that I was immediately drawn to. My mother being the local, she asked the wizened old man behind the stand if there were any good English books for me to read over the summer. He smiled and took out a couple of short, easy books. My mother and I laughed and told him that we would prefer something a little bit more complex. So he went over to the back and brought us some classics and other books. Around the World in 80 Days caught my eye. So we bought it, along with a few other books, all published by Oxford.
I loved the books. I read them over and over and over for the entirety of the summer. In my copy of Around the World in 80 Days, there was a post-it note on the first page translating some of the words. I never took it out. On the inside of the cover, there was a stamp marking it as an imported book, and some of the words in the story were underlined in pencil. The cover was a bright orange, faded only at the binding, hinting that it had been sitting on a bookshelf for a long time. I also realized that this particular copy had been published in 1982. It was as if it had been handed to me from a time machine. Who had owned this before me? Why did they buy it? Did that post-it note mean they were studying for an exam? I was glad that they hadn’t simply thrown the book away. Instead, it had ended up with me. It had left a mark on their life first, and they had marked the book— underlining and fading and noting. And now it leaves a mark on my life, and I will leave a mark on it. And who knows? Maybe it will end up with another person in the future.
I felt like a book detective, and I liked it.