It was innocent enough. I got to the last page of a book I loved—Louise Penny’s latest paperback, perfect reading for a long flight, when I could sink into the rhythms of rural Quebec without the intrusions or interruptions of daily life. I sighed with satisfaction, pulled a pen out of my bag, and started making notes inside the back cover.
And heard a gasp from across the aisle.
I smiled to myself and went on with the task, wanting to capture the connection I felt with the characters, and the author. Noting passages I had read and reread with admiration, what I had not seen coming but knew to be inevitable.
“I can’t even lend my books,” the gasper’s seatmate confided. “People crack the spines. My books look like new even after I’ve read them.”
I caught a half-smile on the face of the flight attendant, in her jump seat. I turned.
“Am I making you ill? I’m so sorry.” I explained that I’d felt like they had for years, but had discovered how useful it was to write in books and even to dog-ear the pages. I flipped through the book, revealing notes and a dozen turned-down corners. Both women shuddered visibly. Because I write, I said, it was for a good cause
“You write?” And so we talked about books. The gasper had a Nook on her lap, the spine preserver a Nora Roberts. Common ground led to forgiveness.
My new habit is good for me, even though it violates the rule my father taught me decades ago: “Books are our friends.” Actually, it doesn’t violate the rule, not really. Books are meant to be used, relished, learned from. Made real by love, like the Velveteen Rabbit. There’s no prize for having the most books that look least read. And for a writer, there’s no substitute for noting a passage that seems to presage a key insight. A striking observation. (I loaned the latest Penny novel to friend, but her earlier books have been my teachers as well. In Still Life, on p. 54, Gamache thinks: “We equate how people live with how they die,” that violent death can’t reach good people, and when it does, we’re shaken. Yes.) We underline a marvelous phrase (“... most premeditated murders were about rancid emotions.”) We star a red herring or transition done well, a detail that springs a secondary character to life, a question raised for a future book.
Observing these things with ink lets us mark our own moments of insight, and return to them. It is an intimate form of friendship.
I told the women I felt their pain and gave them bookmarks. Books are true friends. And so, always, are readers.
About KILLING THYME – third in the Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries (October 4, 2016, by Berkley Prime Crime/Penguin Random House):
In Seattle’s Pike Place Market, Spice Shop owner Pepper Reece is savoring her business success, but soon finds her plans disrupted by a killer in the latest from the national bestselling author of Guilty as Cinnamon.
Pepper Reece’s to-do list is longer than the shopping list for a five-course dinner, as she conjures up spice blends bursting with seasonal flavor, soothes nervous brides fretting over the gift registry, and crosses her fingers for a rave review from a sharp-tongued food critic. Add to the mix a welcome visit from her mother, Lena, and she’s got the perfect recipe for a busy summer garnished with a dash of fun.
While browsing in the artists’ stalls, Pepper and Lena drool over stunning pottery made by a Market newcomer. But when Lena recognizes the potter, Bonnie Clay, as an old friend who disappeared years ago, the afternoon turns sour. To Pepper’s surprise, Bonnie seems intimately connected to her family’s past. After Bonnie is murdered only days later, Pepper is determined to uncover the truth. But as Pepper roots out long-buried secrets, will she be digging her own grave?
About the Author:
Leslie Budewitz blends her passion for food, great mysteries, and the Northwest in two national best-selling series. KILLING THYME, her third Spice Shop Mystery, set in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, is due on October 4. DEATH AL DENTE, first in the Food Lovers' Village Mysteries, set in Jewel Bay, Montana, won the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel. The immediate past president of Sisters in Crime, she lives and cooks in NW Montana.
Find Leslie and excerpts from her books on her website, and chat with her on Facebook.