Sunday, August 26, 2012

"Forgotten Bookmarks: A Bookseller's Collection of Odd Things Lost Between the Pages" by Michael Popek

It's happened to all of us: we're reading a book, something interrupts us, and we grab the closest thing at hand to mark our spot. It could be a train ticket, a letter, an advertisement, a photograph, or a receipt. Eventually the book finds its way into the world - landing in a library, a flea market, other people's bookshelves, a used bookstore. But what becomes of those forgotten bookmarks? What stories could they tell?

By day, Michael Popek works in his family's used bookstore. By night, he's the voyeuristic force behind, where he shares the weird objects he has found among the stacks at his store.

[This book] is a scrapbook of Popek's most interesting finds. Sure, there are actual bookmarks, but there are also pictures and ticket stubs, old recipes and notes, valentines, unsent letters, four-leaf clovers, and various sordid, heartbreaking, and bizarre keepsakes. Together this collection of lost treasures offers a glimpse into other readers' lives that they never intended for us to see.

What a wonderful little find! I've had this on a to-be-read list forever, and while at work yesterday at our main branch, decided it was about time I check it out. If you love history, you'll love this book. Yes, there are some "modern" finds here, too, but the majority of the items presented here are from the early 1900s, if not earlier (some date back to the 1800s!).

Popek has done a wonderful job of simply showing what he's found. There is a picture of the item, sometimes a translation/typed version of what's written on the item, and a picture of the book in which the item was found. He doesn't try to interpret what was going on with the reader, nor does he make any comment about what he's found. The only time there are "extras" is when the item in question has something related to his general area or to a real-life famous person.

The letters are fascinating (and it's somewhat heartening to realize that our ancestors were just as guilty of "bad" writing as we are today). I think my favorite was the letter from a what appears to be a vendor of meats written during the Great Depression; he apologizes for "the delay" of his payment but feels "very much encouraged having paid five thousand dollars since May 1 in this year of great depression." Yes, you read that correctly - five thousand dollars. During the Great Depression, that might as well have been a million dollars! And how wonderful to read that this businessperson still feels guilt over being late with his payment. Just amazing when you consider how a lot of businesses are regarded these days.

If you have a chance to check out this book, take it. It's not a long read, mostly pictures and such, but well worth the time to look through and enjoy.

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