The Wonder of Discovering Handwritten Messages in Secondhand Books

Often, the handwritten messages are more interesting than the book itself.

There’s nothing quite like the wonder of finding a handwritten message in an old, dog-eared secondhand book. These used, pre-loved, well-loved books contain memories of former owners, with their favorite pages folded and beloved passaged underlined. There is a charm to secondhand books, like those piled up in the happy clutter that is BookSale.

And sometimes, the story of the previous owner is more compelling than the book itself. Owners of well-loved books have taken to posting these messages online to share the happy (and sometimes sad) stories behind the story.

Here’s a classic Gray’s Anatomy, passed down from a grandfather to a grandson, that somehow made its way to the Philippines. While it might seem sad that this book was given away, one user notes that sometimes books are donated when the owner dies.

Here’s a sweet message left in an old copy of The Purpose Driven Life, a popular Christian book, encouraging the former owner to find comfort and joy in the book.


Here’s a bittersweet message in Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives between former lovers Joey and Christian, and we can’t help but hope they found their way back to each other.   

In this copy of Alcoholics Anonymous, different people wrote heartwarming messages to someone called Rick, offering love and support as he overcame alcoholism. We don’t know where Rick is now, but we’re rooting for him too.  

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And sometimes, the power of books can bring together two unlikely friends. This preloved book owner managed to contact the former owner of his copy of The Mayor of Casterbridge. And as fate would have it, he replied.

Do you have any handwritten messages in your preloved books? Share them with us in the comments section.

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Anri Ichimura
Section Editor, Esquire Philippines
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