I do love secondhand books that open to the page some previous owner read oftenest. The day Hazlitt came he opened to "I hate to read new books," and I hollered "Comrade!" to whoever owned it before me.
Tracy and I have a list of people we're best friends with in our minds. Anna Quindlen is one. Rachel Remen is another. Emma Thompson definitely makes my list as well. And Helene Hanff. If she were still alive, and I somehow lived down the hall from her New York City apartment, we'd spend long afternoons talking about books and our love for quaint little Englishmen who work in bookshops. We'd also laugh about our hopelessly horrible math skills (My algebra teacher, Mr. Moots, will vouch for mine). When asking for book prices to be given in dollars, rather than pounds, Hanff writes: "Will you please translate your prices hereafter? I don't add too well in plain American, I haven't a prayer of ever mastering bilingual arithmetic."
If you love books, London, and charming used bookshops, this classic is for you. 84, Charing Cross Road, published in 1970, is a collection of real letters, spanning over twenty years, between Hanff and Mark Doel, a book dealer at London's Marks & Co.. Despite the miles between them, the difference in cultures, and the fact that they never meet, they develop a friendship that does what all the best friendships do: changes them both for good.
It's a quick read, as in you can read this in a day quick. Which is sad, because it will leave you wanting so much more of Helene and Frank, and yet beautiful, because you can read it again and again.
I've yet to see it, but it was made into a movie in 1987, staring Anne Bancroft, Anthony Hopkins, and Judi Dench. Of course, true to Hollywood form, they've turned it into a love story, and not the book loving kind. Blatant embellishment aside, I plan on Netflixing this pronto.