But when I think of sorting through the boxes of my grandmother’s books—even the ones we couldn’t keep, or didn’t want—and what we found there, I am grateful not to have been handed her Amazon password instead. Among all the gifts of the electronic age, one of the most paradoxical might be to illuminate something we are beginning to trade away: the particular history, visible and invisible, that can be passed down through the vessel of an old book, inscribed by the hands and the minds of readers who are gone.
I was just thinking about this the other day — or at least along these lines. I was thinking of books that one reads and then designates for a fellow reader, someone who’s certain to love whatever one has just read. I wish it were still our practice to inscribe our books. I wish that we inscribed them at least with our names and the date upon which we read them before handing them off to fellow readers. I imagine people’s books travelling among their friends and their friends’ friends, names and dates tracking the books’ readers as used to be the case with the cards tucked in the back of books from the public library.