May 2, 2011


I mentioned I’d visited my branch library recently and checked out two mysteries (Blog: 4/28/11). Usually, I prefer to buy books rather than borrow them as I like to support my favorite writers. But, as I said in that earlier blog, I happened to find two hardbacks available that I wanted to read and so I checked them out.

As it was an April day with the weather flickering between sunshine and rain, I curled up under my comforter and began to read the preamble and dedication of the first novel. Dedications are among the most mysterious parts of a book, I think. A writer chooses to honor someone for a reason that sometimes is unclear.  The experience is like peering into a shadowy corner of an author’s life. Garth Nix, who wrote a wonderful trilogy about magic and necromancy, writes the following in his third novel, “Lirael:”

To Anna, my family and friends and to Bytenix (1986-99) the original Disreputable dog.

Surely there’s a story behind this inscription, but what story, I wonder. A little message left between the covers of a book like Nix’s is fascinating but leaves no trail and so becomes a mystery like Mona Lisa’s smile.  

I was speculating about dedications when a slip of paper fell from the book I’d opened. It was a list of names, mystery titles that had been checked out by the previous reader. Some of the authors were familiar but others weren’t. All of the books bore intriguing titles: Catered Thanksgiving;” “A Pact of Silence;” “Skein of the Crime and Tragedy at Two.”  Apparently this reader, whom I would never meet, shared an interest in cozies and had unwittingly left a trail I could follow. 

(courtesy: BingImages) 

It occurred to me then there might be some benefit in leaving little hints of ourselves in the books we return to the library. “If you like this work try ….”  Yes, a note would be a random act of kindness to the next reader and for the author and publisher, too. Certainly, it would be more useful than the coffee stains one sometimes finds in a borrowed book. Hmmm…perhaps I’ll try it.