Issue 10, Poco Bear Letter #2 On sharing books

The editors of Pseudo Mag have decided that we don’t talk to each other enough, even though we meet every day and talk all the time. Through the ‘Poco Bear Letters’ column, one of us will write to the other in every issue and document the conversation on the internet as millenial postmodernity demands.

To one Poco Bear,

I don’t really remember when we started sharing books. What book was it? Who lent it to whom? Why did the person who borrowed it want to read it? Whenever it was and whatever book it was, it started a series of book lendings and borrowings that is still going on. When we decided to put up pictures of the books we were reading on social media, it was hard to tell who was reading which one at what point, even for us. That’s how much our reading lives intertwine sometimes.

At some point in these reading lives, our bookshelves became friends. Now they are sort of like silent, distant twins. They always have some of each other’s’ books in them, and also have some of the same books (from times when a book was so good, we decided we wanted to own it for ourselves as well). I like to think of our bookshelves as separate individuals both reflective of our separate personalities and experiences, that at some point started mixing in elements of each other. A lot like us.

I like to think of the journey of our books sometimes. One will sit in your shelf and catch the beautiful smell all your books have, it’ll have the grand tour of your house before that—when you leave it on the dining table, or read it on the sofa, or keep it in a stack on your window sill with all the other four or five books you’re currently reading. Then I’ll take the book with it’s distinct having-been-read feel.  It’ll come to my house, where it’ll pick up the scents here. It’ll travel with me in my bag till the time I finish it. It will have witnessed the impact it had on both of us. There will be the book that is, the book that you read, and the book that I read. There will also be the book that we talked about, which gave us new insights into the books we read, causing us to slightly modify the experience as we remember it. I love hearing you talk about a book we both loved. It heightens that book’s appeal for me. It has helped me rediscover old books and see them in a new light.

Then you came up with your idea of co-buying a book. “It was simple”, you said, “we split the cost, and share the book.” The book would be like a child of divorce with two loving homes. (You would never put it like that of course. That’s just my take) You loved the idea for it’s “Amanda Palmer-iness”. Our entire circle of friends caught on to this idea, and we all started co-buying books. Sometimes, when we were low on cash, sometimes just because the idea of owning a book together is a warm, lovely idea. The two of us, though, have never co-bought a book. I think it is because we have an unspoken understanding that pretty much all of our books are co-bought. We have license to borrow them anytime, keep them indefinitely, fill them with highlights and marginalia. I never know who highlighted what when I open a book we’ve both read.

There is nothing quite like seeing someone else’s notes in a book. I feel like reading books is a communal experience as much as an individual one. And notes from multiple people in one book is the perfect physical manifestation of that. We build the whole book in our head and we form our own associations and connections. That one line about loss reminds you of something you lost once or you see your own struggles in the struggles of that one character. You find something you were looking for, and lose things you didn’t want. You can’t finish it, you get frustrated with it, you remain unaffected by it. It is your very own experience. But then you meet other people who loved the book, hated it, have a complicated relationship with it, and you subtly influence each other’s memory of the reading experience. I find books slipping away from me some time after I’m done reading them, but then if you read them, they come back, slightly altered, and lodge bits of themselves in me.

I see this whole beautiful process unfold in our sharing of books. And that is one of the greatest joys I get out of reading. So, to use your line from the last letter, wishing you more power and magic as a reader, my friend. Let our bookshelves forever be friends.

Another Poco Bear.



written by Tanvi Joshi

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