For people who love books, books seem to show up everywhere. Shared between friends, sent in the mail, found in a tiny bookstore, in a relative’s attic, discarded in the street, hidden within secret places and treasure chests: books travel with people and find their way through the world.
I have three stories about finding strange books in strange places. All links are affiliate links. I love these books and think you would too!
Buy Spacecraft Voyager 1: New and Selected Poems
This book above, “Spacecraft Voyager 1: New and Selected Poems” by Alice Oswald was found in my spooky scary basement. I rent the house I live in right now, so this was in the detritus among the left-behinds of some prior tenant. It peeked out of a box, tempting me every time I walked past it to do laundry.
Finally, I picked it up. The pretty blue cover and possible space travel inside convinced me. I know, don’t judge a book by its cover and all that, but I am only human and my basement is not a pleasant place to sit and peruse books to judge their insides. No space travel, but some of the most beautiful and gripping poems rest inside this basement dwelling book.
I wish I had a picture for this next book, because it was a great encounter. The book is in Kansas, though, and I am in Minnesota. It’s called “Why Does E=mc2?: (and Why Should We Care?)” by Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw.
Several years ago, I was in a hotel lobby having complimentary hotel breakfast with my father. I think we were on a geology field trip (shout out to 4-H!). The TV was blaring some talking head, and my father and I began to discuss the world and the politics. This kind, elderly lady nearby was listening and chimed in, and we all started talking. It was a friendly conversation, though we all had different ideas. Then we started talking about books and college for me, and it was obvious that I loved reading and learning. As breakfast was finishing up, she asked me if she could give me a book. I had thought she was joking, but no, she took the elevator to her room and came back with “Why Does E=mc2?”! The authors do an incredible job of explaining difficult concepts about the speed of light, relativity, and so on in plain speech.
To this day, it is in the top 10 kindest things a stranger has done for me and remains one of the best surprise presents I’ve ever received.
Buy The Great Days of Piracy in the West Indies
This last one is possibly my favorite. My hometown is the kind of place with no Walmart or Starbucks, less than 2,000 people, and more antique stores than gas stations. We have three antique stores (in town I think) and two gas stations, so it’s not a high-level competition. We don’t have too much of anything and have none of some things. I was browsing at my favorite antique place downtown. I’m not knowledgeable about collectable or valuable books, and I don’t think that I’ve ever found any in an antique store, but I enjoy seeing what kind of books people have held on to and what’s survived.
“The Great Days of Piracy in the West Indies” by George Woodbury enticed me, tucked between other old and odd books in the limited bookshelves. I thought it would be silly to buy what was likely an outdated (published in 1950s) nonfiction book on pirates, from a place that hardly carried books, but I couldn’t leave it behind. I bought it and I’m so glad I did! It is fascinating and fun. It covers everything during what is considered the “Golden Age” of piracy, from why piracy flourished, state sponsored buccaneers, the formation of pirate republics, and some famous women pirates. The author clearly knows and loves what he’s talking about. It is not the best organized or best written book, but it’s very readable and interesting. It is still one of my favorite books, and I even brought it with me from Kansas when I moved to Minnesota.
Have you ever found a book in an unexpected place? Ever exchanged books with a friend or a stranger and it changed your whole mindset?