Used (Maybe Abused)…But Such A Delight To Me!

While I love shiny new books with clean, crisp pages that have never been touched as much as the next book lover, I have to admit I have a big spot in my heart for used/old books. I very briefly mentioned it in this Top Ten Tuesday post but I wanted to elaborate and see what you all think!

I love the character that comes with a used book. Ok, perhaps I don’t that huge chocolate stain or the boogery looking thing isn’t completely charming, but still. I love the knowledge that someone else had an experience with this book: that they may have furiously turned the pages in anticipation until 3am, swooned or perhaps even wept on these pages — feelings just poured out upon these pages which my own tears may one day also fall.

I love old books because I love finding treasures hidden within the pages — notes, scraps of paper, receipts that give a glimpse into a very small window of someone’s life. I remember finding the sweetest paper Valentine (one of those cute ones you gave in 2nd grade) from a husband to his wife. I remember finding a post-it note that contained a do-to list. I’m pretty sure she was planning a wedding. I found a sketch for a dress in a fashion design book. I found a picture of a girl with great style on the beach in a book about Edie Sedgwick I bought circa 2005 and  I wanted to be friends based on her style! I once found a boarding pass for an international flight ( I can’t remember where to) and I sat there wondering why they were going there — for vacation? What if for a funeral? Did they live there?

I love finding these little mementos! They leave little clues to the person who read this book before me. I find myself wondering what they are like, if they enjoyed the book, if the book was personal to them, if they threw it across the room. Is that strange?

Sidebar of things I DON’T like finding in books: condom wrappers (good job on the safe sex though!), dirty tissues, pages that you mistook for a tissue, candy wrappers, REALLY gross food stains…I mean like a piece of a noodle really? ALSO. Do not annotate shit. Unless I have found an early manuscript I don’t want to see notes in the margins (of a used book that I am buying…do what you will with books you keep!).

I love old books because of the memories attached. There’s something very sentimental, as I shared in my bookish memories post, about having my mom’s old Nancy Drew books and finding her childhood books and seeing her handwriting as a young person …a time in her life I obviously never got to see. It makes me wonder what she was like as a  child and if we were alike. Those books are special to me, because even if she’s not here with me, these books were a part of her.

In all, I just freaking loved used/old books. There’s that history of another reader who, at one time, was experiencing the same words you were. Gripping the pages as you were. Crying all over the same pages you were. Maybe I’m romanticizing it but it gives me the chills thinking about the person, their life, what that book meant to them (maybe it changed their life, maybe it made them laugh on a bad day!) and pretty much what else is on their bookshelf.

Sigh..these are the things I daydream about.


So let’s talk: Do you like used books or do you tend to go towards the new? If you do like used books, do you prefer them over new? Do you ever think about the weirdo things that I think about in relation to used/old books? What’s the coolest/sweetest/grossest/most memorable thing you’ve ever found in a book? Do you have any instances in which you have an older book that was passed down from someone you care about and you found something special in it or just feel such connection to that loved one?

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About Jamie

Jamie is a 32 year old married lady (with a new baby!!) who is in denial that she's actually that old to be a married lady and a mom. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, belting out Hamilton (loud and offkey) and having adventures with her husband, daughter and rescue dog.


  1. Oh my goodness, have you really found those things in books? The best I’ve ever gotten is someone else’s cheap bookmark, although, while shelving a book at my school library where I volunteer, I once extracted what may or may not have been some kind of feminine hygiene product. I promptly threw it away, barely glancing at it, though, so it remains unsure. I do love romanticizing about the other lives a book has seen, as well. Whenever I check out a book from the library, I breifly think about all the other people who have read it and how it may have affected them, which really is interesting to consider.
    I love this discussion post topic and I’ll have to check back to read the other people’s comments and find about their experiences. 🙂

  2. I had a friend order a used book on amazon once. She opened the book to find a little clear baggy of crystals in it. We guessed it meth and throw it away. So some used books have a scary story hidden in the pages. Lol.

  3. Sometimes, I get the best things in library books. I remember getting one of those anonymous “Have a great day” notes that someone stuck in a book once upon a time. And a few to-do lists. At times some things I find totally iff me out, but I still love the pure memories one can find in a book. To be honest, I’m in the middle with what types of books I prefer. If they’re used, but in considerably good shape and not gross, I’m happy to take it, but otherwise I’d rather get a new copy.

  4. I really love old books that have been passed down from my parents or grandparents. It just makes them that much more special. Used books otherwise, don’t hold a lot of appeal for me though. I’ve normally just come across the gross, finding a memento would probably change my opinion because I do love the idea of used books holding memories.

  5. I’m not sure which I prefer – I love both. Lets face it – I love books. New, used, borrowed, found. Books I don’t want to keep I’ll either pass on to someone I think will enjoy it, or take to the Salvos/Op Shop so someone else can benefit from them, or I actually really like taking a pile to the hospital – I work in the Cancer ward where patients can stay for weeks and sometimes months. We have a patients/relatives room with a wall of books & dvds the patients can access. Anyway. Off topic.

    I like reading used books, and finding (nice, non gross) things, notes, bookmarks etc. And I actually disagree with you about writing in books. I really like reading other people’s thoughts and opinions. Provided it’s not someone’s grocery list! Can give a different spin/angle on a paragraph I hadn’t thought of, just generally makes me think a little more about what I’m reading, feels kinda like a discussion with someone! Interesting, as I don’t often write in my own books, I get too swept up in the story and turning pages rather than putting my own thoughts down during the reading of the book – I write afterwards.

  6. Yes to the used and old books. I actually don’t like to read new books, because some paperback are hard to ‘break in’ (I hope that’s the right expression). I love the old editions because I always irrationally feel that those books are smarter – because they are older. 🙂
    I didn’t buy any used books but I sure got a lot of interesting ‘presents’ in library books. My favorite is postcard from Venice (empty) – I glued it to the wall above my desk and then it became a custom for me, to add postcards from all the places I want to visit. 🙂 Second best thing I found are bookmarks – I actually also started to collect them too because of this. :o)
    I did not find anything gross if you ignore food & coffee mug stains.

  7. I prefer new books, I love the smell of new books. And actually I just can’t stand abused books, I hate dog ears or cracked spines and often used books have all this. And writing in a book that is just awfull. For me new books are better.

  8. Ah, that’s a hard question…I’ve been reading just ebooks for so long. (SO much easier to slip a Kindle in a bag than a 400 page book!) Still, I’m a book purist at heart–nothing beats the feel of pages. I love used books and new books, but I think my favorite is probably the library book; they’re kinda in between. They’re library books, so few people will stick their food in there, but you can find all sorts of bookmarks and things. It makes me want to start putting little notes in library books (not ON the pages, but on a slip of paper inside the pages). And I kind of love annotations. They give the book soul.

  9. I have this sort of dream where one day ill go around and buy a bunch of my favourite old and used books and have my own book case dedicated to them! I think every book lover has a sort of fetish for old books, there’s a mystery element in there we all just love!

  10. Though I haven’t found much as interesting as you have in all of my Goodwill book shopping, I do love when I come across bookmarks, and once there was a photo of the previous owner, which was interesting. With library books, it can be cool when they leave their check out slip in the book and I can judge what they checked out other than the book I’m holding.

    I also get a perverse joy out of the books that have personal messages in the front of them that you pick up at used bookstores.

    Dear Jimmy,
    I think you will love this book and that it will help you become a fine man. Keep it with you always,

    And then it’s on the shelf at Goodwill. Then I wonder what happened. Did Jimmy forget it at a hotel? Donate it because he doesn’t care? Did he die? Did grandma and he couldn’t bear the pain of seeing it anymore? Did he pass it on to a child who unloaded it?

    Basically, used books have more stories than just the one unfolding in the printed text between their covers, and it’s delightful to think about. Though not so much when the story is that the previous owner used it as a flyswatter.

  11. I have a soft spot in my heart for used books! Of course I can’t afford to buy ALL of them new, and yes! Those little treasures are exactly what makes them so special.
    Have you ever seen the movie Definitely, Maybe? That’s what I think of each time I buy a used book – Where Isla Fisher’s character is on a life-long hunt for the copy of Jayne Eyre that her dad gave to her an wrote a personal note it? THAT’S what I think. I almost feel bad because it’s like, what if I get that copy of someone’s book and they’re looking for it? Mostly I don’t worry, but in the movie she did the same thing — She kept all those books with personal notes in them because she knew that it meant so much to someone else!
    Okay, that aside – I LOVE finding things in books. Once I found a stub for a plane ticket and it was from yeeears ago but on my mom’s birthday which was WEIRD. My boyfriend’s dad let me borrow one of his Jack Reacher books (which I haven’t read because he gave me book 10 in the series LOL), but he’s an international businessman so he’s always going on trips and this book was filled with plane tickets and receipts. It was like finding a whole treasure tucked between the pages!!! I always want to keep those things and create a little box of memories or something. Okay, that sounds weird, but I think you know what I mean haha. I’ve always been a memory-hoarder (scrapbooker, ticket-saver, you name it (seriously. I’ve saved all my movie stubs since 1998!)) so those things are really special for me to find! <3

  12. One of the tweens that I do a radio show with brought a stack of books to me the other day, tied up with a ribbon and a cute little label, for me to send to our former co-host who has moved across the country. What’s funny is that while these books were dressed up all pretty as a gift, they were absolutely MANGLED! And I know they were both in perfect condition when she got them because one I bought for her and the other was an advanced copy that she picked up at a book event. I’m sure her friend will love them anyway, but they are definitely of the “maybe abused” variety of used books.

  13. michelle_etc says:

    I’m sort of a germophobe, so I don’t buy used books as much as I’d like to. (Although I use the library A TON, so make sense of that!) But I totally agree with everything you’ve mentioned above. There’s something romantic about picking up a book that someone else owned and, hopefully, cared for.

    My favorite part is probably finding handwritten notes in the pages, too. I had a used copy of Diana Gabaldon’s OUTLANDER that must have been given as a gift at one point. There was a really sweet inscription where the giver hoped their friend would love the book as much as she did. It made the book even more special!

  14. I like both. I love new books, knowing that they are so fresh, clean, and open to me reading them! They’re just ready to be explored.

    But I also love old books. Although I do tend to get creeped out sometimes about all the germs on/in them!!! Like when you find that random stain in a book. Blech! But besides that, they have so much character. Who read them before you? They’re fun!

  15. I’m the complete opposite. I hate used books. I’m kind of weird in that when I buy a new book, I want it to be new because then I know it belongs to me and only me. I tend to form personal connections with books, and I don’t really feel like it’s mine if it’s belonged to someone before me, if that makes sense? It is neat finding notes and things in used books, though. I always love finding bookmarks people leave behind because I can never have too many of those.

  16. A noodle. lol Wow. I’m actually quite partial to used books as well… I tend to frequent my used indie bookstore far more than B&N. I actually can’t remember the last time I bought a brand new book. My favorite part is about finding all the (good) mementos too. Receipts, boarding passes, new bookmarks, notes. 🙂

  17. I have notes in my library books but nothing as interesting as what you have found. I do enjoy those finds for good deals at stores.

  18. I’m pretty shallow when it comes to books: I care a LOT about how they look, at least when I bring them home. I’ll buy used books that are in like-new or close to like-new condition, but not the ones that are all broken spine’d, with bent covers and mussed pages. I’m even picky about new books, agonizing over which of the available copies are the MOST new looking! It’s kind of ridiculous.

    At the same time, the books I own that I bought new but have since become used—like my paperback copy of Wild Magic, which was the first Tamora Pierce book I ever read way back when—are some of my favorite books, because like you describe, they tell a story in their appearance. I just prefer that a used book tell my story vs. someone else’s.

    Gawd, I sound like a pretentious twit. :p

  19. I like new books, but I don’t always like the price associated with new books…so I mostly buy used.
    I have absolutely no problem with a used book, even if it’s not in the greatest condition. I’m just going to read it and then maybe leave it in my car for a few weeks or try to cram it into an overflowing bookshelf anyway (if I want to hold on to it that is, if I don’t want to I’ll try to re-sell to amazon if they’re offering money for it).
    If I’m buying a ‘classic’, I almost prefer the old worn-in versions to a shiny new one, ESPECIALLY if it has a move tie-in cover.

  20. Generally I prefer new books. However, I do order from Amazon quite often and will order used novels so long as they are in good condition.

  21. I like new books in the sense that I am the first to read it, I get to break it in and all that but at the same time, I feel like I have to take overly good care of it and it is kind of stressful. With old books, I don’t have that stress.
    Still, overall I prefer new books just because newness is awesome!

  22. I love used books too. I do not love people who smoked while holding the used book (or library book) and left behind the unmistakable smell.
    I love finding mementos in books – even if it’s a receipt. I always leave them in there – whether I keep, giveaway or trade in the book. It always makes me want to leave things in books, but I haven’t, at least I don’t remember doing it.

  23. I can totally see the appeal of having used books and being able to witness how others used the book. I have this one book I bought for a class that has a sweet note from a husband to his wife on the intro page (although it makes me wonder why they then decided to sell it). But I am too much of a neat and clean freak overall to really appreciate used books. I don’t like my books to be bent or smell less than fresh.

  24. I buy a lot of my books used because I live finding a book I have been hunting for at a bargain price

  25. Ya know, I love used books for the reasons you mentioned. It’s awesome finding tokens and momentos left from others. Well, for the exception of that used bandaid I found one time 🙁

    I love shiny new books and their smell too, though. Different ones for different reasons

  26. I’m going to be a cheapskate and say that I love old books because they’re inexpensive 😛 Value Village and thrift stores are my book go-to place. If new books were so cheap, I would only buy them.

  27. Used books is how I make my living. And trust me, I’ve seen it all: condom wrappers, dildos and vibrators (!!!), even a butt plug somehow “forgotten” about in a box of books someone wanted to sell. Do these people not look through their things first??

    I personally love finding photos and notes tucked between the pages. I see each one and daydream about the life this person must have – perhaps I’m the strange one! Once I came across a really personal note written by a man to his estranged/ex-wife and that was a little uncomfortable. ..but also totally thrilling, like I was in on their secret.

    My favorite discovery is definitely a handmade bookmark a young girl made. She colored it and in bright purple marker wrote “Leah’s Awesum Bookmark.” Clearly it was fate that brought that bookmark to me :D!

    Even though I sell used books and love finding mementos from the previous owner(s), when it comes to buying my books, I’m far pickier. Yes I’ll buy them used of course, but they have to be pristine and definitely NO writing or inscriptions.

  28. Let’s be honest, I love all kinds of books. I love the excitement of a pristine new release as much as I love the excitement of uncovering a hidden gem at my favorite used bookstore. I always pick the “best” copy, but a book that’s a little worn in doesn’t bother me. Although I was kind of annoyed when my latest “very good condition” purchase arrived with pen scribbles on the cover and a damaged spine — a little wear and tear is OK as long as you’re honest about it!

  29. I feel like I don’t have very many used books. I think it’s because my OCD tendencies get overwhelmed and even a little offended whenever I go into a used bookstore. In theory, though, I would love to have a giant pile of worn, used books, mostly for the reasons you list – wondering where they’ve been, finding interesting artifacts and making up a story around them… I feel like I should force myself to be more adventurous, just for that. But yeah. Torn between the romance of the old and the prettiness of the new. Ugh. Such is a bookish life.

  30. Samuel Johnson was notoriously cruel and disgusting to his books. I believe his copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio-let me repeat: his First Folio–has a number of food stains in it (one author surmises Johnson had a taste for gravy) and a large mark clearly made by a tea saucer through Measure for Measure.

  31. Don’t mind wetting obviously used books from the library but when I buy books the should be new 🙂 grossest story I heard or read somewhere: a librarian found a piece of ham as a bookmark in a book 😀 haha sooo disgusting! I recently found a mom’s to do list for her daughters in a library book that was cute!

  32. I have a really big soft spot for used books. they have history and character that new books lack. I love imagining how the other people felt reading the book that I now have. did they love it? what are they called? where do they live? I love the mystery of finding little mementos inside and wondering who ARE you? I just love it.

  33. Our library has a used book store and, while it’s not huge, it has a great selection of random books. I love perusing the shelves and finding little treasures among them! The absolute best though is finding little treasures INSIDE the books – one of the best ones I’ve found (didn’t buy the book though) was a note a husband had written to his wife. It said something like “Happy 50th anniversary! To celebrate I’m giving you this book and taking you on a cruise! I love you!” Like how sweet is that? Granted, not sure why the book ended up in a used book store. Maybe they divorced. My favorite thing to look for in used bookstores is, hands down, OLD books. Ones that are from 50 years ago. I love thinking about all the hands that have touched the book (minus gross germs), the emotions the words within it created for those who have read it… it’s like you’re adding something to the book’s legacy when you read it yourself! Love this post Jamie!

  34. I love reading used books. I’ve never found anything too exciting in an older book, just the occasional bookmark 😛 But I have a lot of my grandpa’s old books in the house, and flipping through those I see little notes he’s added, or his bookmarks made from newspaper clippings from close to 60 years ago! Finding those little things is so meaningful, especially since he passed away 13 years ago when I was only 5. It feels like finding little pieces of his bookish soul.

  35. I LOVE used books, Jamie! I’m notorious for leaving things in books and finding them years later. This Christmas while home, I picked up my old beloved copy of Little Women and in it found a bookmark my mother (who has since passed away) had made for me as a little girl. OMG THE FEELS!!! I also always had a weird love for library books back when they got stamped–I’m sad they don’t anymore. I just loved to look at all those due date stamps and think about how often that book had been read, or how long since someone had seen those pages. I’ve also found freakin adorable notes from little kids in the middle grade books I read, which always makes my day. Thanks for giving us freaks an outlet to share these weird FEELS. <3

  36. LOVEEE used books. There is a store here called The Book Barn (you might remember, I blogged about it a few months back) and I am OBSESSED with it. Is it weird that I love the smell of old books even though I am 98% sure that smell is mold? I love finding old pictures and things!!

  37. I love OLD used books. Where you can smell the old paper smell and they have old covers and and and… I’m only sad it means the author’s not getting money for my purchase, you know? 🙂

  38. For me, it depends on the book. I love going to the used bookstore and browsing, but at the same time, if I want a copy of my absolute favorite books, I want a new one – that way when it gains the character from multiple readings, it’s all MY character, you know? But used books are also great, especially when I’m looking for something to take on trips etc. Plus, our nearest used bookstore is also a coffee shop, so the books always smell SO GOOD! 🙂

  39. In all honesty, I used to be one of those people who just had to have new books all the time. There was something magical about the pretty new covers, and the perfection of new books. It used to be such a big deal because I liked feeling like I was the first person to read a book.

    BUT ever since I moved to the US, I’ve found that I don’t mind trolling used bookstores for books. There’s something beautiful and poignant about buying a book that someone has already experienced – and sometimes, it’s fun to find things inside. One of my favorite things to read are the personalized dedications that are written in used books when they’re given as gifts.

  40. I love love love used books, but I don’t find sweet momentos in mine D: So jealous 😉 Honestly though, I love used books because they are such a good deal most of the time. When I can buy a used book for half the price (or less!) of the new price, I’m there! I love the adventure of used book shopping too, you never know what treasures you are going to find! When buying new books, you are pretty sure that the store will have a copy of what you are looking for, but with used books you have to go in with an open mind and just see what the universe presents for you to read 😀

    Anya @ On Starships and Dragonwings


  1. […] (Perpetual Page-Turner) confessed that she loves used books, and that she’s always nervous when her favorite authors put out new […]

  2. […] about used books (and some of the crazy things she has found in them.)  Head over to The Perpetual Page-Turner and add your two cents about used […]