A few weeks after I wrote a column about odd things found in books, I pulled a book from my shelf and out fell a "book token," a thin piece of pale yellow and blue cardboard. It is exchangeable (it said, in small print) at any book token bookshop in Great Britain or Ireland. Someone had inscribed it to Jean, with love from the Boys, and dated it: Christmas 1946.
It is so easy to slip something into a book and forget it's there — when I got my first COVID-19 shot I stuck my vaccination card into the book I was carrying, and when it was time for the second shot I had to rack my brain to remember which book it was.
All of which brings me to you, and your wonderful, hilarious, touching and occasionally disturbing recollections of oddball things you have found in books. Read on; your stories are far better than book tokens and vaccine paperwork. And huge thanks to the more than 100 readers across the country who took the time to write.
Mary Feeney, Prior Lake: The best thing I found in a used book was a long out of date employee reward certificate from Northwest Airlines. Someone never took advantage of that free fountain drink.
Gladys Walcker, Hopkins: In the 1980s my husband and I enjoyed going to garage and estate sales. A few days after one of our outings, he was going through his latest book purchase and found a ring pressed deep into the pages. He took it to a jeweler and learned it was a diamond ring valued at about $400. With no recollection of where the book was purchased, he decided to have it made into a necklace for me and I've enjoyed wearing it for many years.
Cathryn Kasic, St. Louis Park: My dad used to tuck love notes into my mom's books. So when Dad died and we had to clean the house before Mom moved to assisted living, we flipped through all the books and gave the notes to Mom. Sweet love.
Tersenia Schuett, St. Paul: I am a member of the Book Ends, the American Association of University Women fundraising group that solicits used books in order to raise money for scholarships. Four of us sit around a table almost every Wednesday morning, sorting books. My favorite find, which is now framed and hangs on the wall at our cabin: a 1972 flier advertising an Arlo Guthrie concert to benefit George McGovern's campaign for president.
Tom and Lisa Tangen, Vancouver, Wash.: Early last year we purchased five pallets of old books at an auction. The most interesting bookmark in the collection was an inventory list of laundry items from West Point in the year 1911. Some plebe had marked what items he was turning in to be cleaned.
Judy Gann, Lakewood, Wash.: I'm a retired librarian. No snakes, but the weirdest thing I ever found in a book was a banana peel used as a bookmark.
Roxann Hansen, Boise, Idaho: As a farm kid I used a toothpick or a bobby pin for a bookmark. As an adult I tore off the corner of a newspaper or any random piece of paper in close proximity and used that. As a "mature" woman I actually use a bookmark.
Jennie Morris, Columbia, S.C.: A 1960s era photo of a man smiling into the camera on a golf course with a Playboy bunny. It was mounted on Playboy Club card stock. It was such a perfect bookmark that I started using it myself and lost track of it when I donated used books to the library. It became a great find for someone else, I hope.
Rahn Adams, Boone, N.C.: Through the years I've written letters to authors after finishing their books. I'd store the reply in the writer's book, then forget about it. Some of the letters I've been surprised to run across after 30-40 years include personal notes from Nobel laureate Saul Bellow, CBS newsman Charles Kuralt and Sen. Sam Ervin.
Dana Minnis, Arlington, Texas: I've worked in public libraries for the last 40 years and have found soooo many unusual things in books. My favorite was a $16,000 check from a gas well to the library patron. I called her and she was at the library in about 30 minutes to pick it up.
Anne Towey, Lake City, Minn.: I am a member of the Friends of the Library in Lake City. We collect used books to raise money for the library and received a book titled "Education of Youth for Home and Society," copyright 1896. Little doll clothes were inside the book, along with a letter, handwritten from a doctor to a patient, thanking her for her payment. I know this isn't macabre but I think it is unique.
Agnes Kennard, Wascott, Wis.: I picked up a used book at a small grocery store in a northern suburb of Minneapolis. A mystery. I took it to work with me. At a quiet time, I opened it up to glance through, only to have a snowstorm of clippings drop out — all of them cutouts of bare-breasted women, always from the waist up and usually without heads. Henceforth and ever after I always check any used book I ever come across, with a good shaking before I walk out of the store with it.
Jean Jacobs, Minnetonka: Instead of finding foul things in books I read, I have found two items I treasure. The first is a postcard that features a beautiful watercolor painting of a hotel in Penzance. The second is an old bookmark that says, "A book fitly chosen is a lifelong friend." I have laminated it because it was fragile. I am grateful to have discovered both in used books.
Mary Patrick, Minneapolis: After a gynecological procedure, my doctor thought, for some reason, I'd like a photo of my Dermoid Cyst (look it up; it's disgusting). [Editor's note: Do not look it up.] Not sure what I should do with this image, I used it as a bookmark, which I forgot when I donated the book to a charity. I can't imagine what the person who purchased the book thought!
Greg Laden, Plymouth: In the final draft of my PhD thesis on the land use ecology of the Efé Pygmies of the Congo, I put a $5 bill with a note, "Irv, get yourself something nice." (Irv DeVore, my thesis adviser.) I never did expect him to actually read the final version. Had he ever come across the $5 bill, he would have mentioned it. Irv has since left the corporeal plain, but I'm sure his books are somewhere. And there, among them, is a $5 bill.
Mary Prokopiuk, New Brighton: The best thing I found in a book is a recipe for tortilla soup neatly printed on a purple note card. Many years later I still use it whenever I make tortilla soup.
Jennifer Greenstein, Minnetonka: I once found a $150 gift certificate for Honey-Baked Ham in a library book. It's not a place I normally frequent (my kids are vegetarians), but I got several delicious meals. The side dishes and desserts were great.
Diane Sears, Eagan: I was astonished to find a $100 bill in the inside flap of a mystery novel at the library. My husband took it to the bank and it was real! I donated it to a local food shelf then, as I felt it needed to be put to purposeful use.
Becky Archibald Agnew, Bagley, Minn.: When I was in elementary school in Fridley in 1965, I found an excellent specimen of a road-flattened frog, dried by the sun and baked crisp. I thought it made a great bookmark, but I forgot it in the book I returned at the school library. My class was looking for our next read when the librarian screamed.
Laurie Hertzel is the Star Tribune senior editor for books. On Facebook: facebook.com/startribunebooks