ON USED BOOKS (2022)

If you’re a writer, or just a casual reader, the essay “What Working at a Used Bookstore Taught Me About Literary Rejection” by Carl Lavigne is an insightful look at how people look for material to read, and the ennui of confronting reams of books that have been discarded.

At one point in the essay, he notes that the bookstore he works at stocked a signed copy of his friend’s novel. Carl brought the book back home, afraid of the repercussions that would occur if his friend would see that that unread book on the shelf.

I trawl through used bookstores all the time — usually picking up books from authors I’ve never heard of but appear intriguing — and often find that I’ve inadvertently purchased a signed copy. In fact, the book I’m currently reading — I won’t name it — was signed to a friend of the author who had invited them to a writer’s colony that, presumably, they used to work on the novel. Like Carl, I thought: “Maybe the friend died. Maybe they had a falling out. Maybe the friend loaned it to someone, never got it back, and the loanee sent it along. Maybe it was simply an unwanted copy.”

Every writer wants a physical copy of their work to be cherished, especially if it’s a copy you took the time to sign.