Habits of Mind

Something Lost, Something Found

By January 7, 2015 October 20th, 2018 2 Comments

I was reorganizing my books over the winter holiday when I suddenly remembered, for reasons unknown, Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient. I don’t know where this book went or why I thought of it at that moment, but I was instantly bereft, wishing to see its spine wedged among other favorites.

It would be easy enough to order another copy from Amazon and have it in hand tomorrow. I might. But tonight I’m preoccupied with the mystery of how and where I lost the book that meant so much to me as a twenty-year old English major lonely for her studies over winter break of sophomore year.

Did I give it away during a purge before moving? Did I lend it to someone who fell under its spell and contrived to keep it? Did it fall behind a couch and does it sit there still?

I realize that this is a mystery that can’t be solved and isn’t a tragedy. But here’s the thing: the romance, geography and strength of character that are braided in that book – in that copy of that book – impacted in some small but certain way the person I became.

In Keith Oattey and Maja Djikic’s Dec. 21 NYT editorial, “How Reading Transforms Us,” they explain that “beyond influencing how we think or/and feel, reading helps us to be ourselves.”

In that sense, books are a lot like the people who raise and shape us, and it makes sense to want to keep them within reach.




Jessica is a doctoral candidate, education consultant, writer and editor. She is the founder of bookclique, a collaborative of English teachers and students working to promote book culture, and a co-founder of Well-Schooled, the site for educator storytelling, dedicated to sharing first-person educator stories. All Rights Reserved - What I Learned Today in School.


  • Lindsey says:

    I can’t find our copy of the Phantom Tollbooth and had the exact same reaction! I kind of love that the book you’re talking about today is the English Patient because I don’t know if you know that’s in my all-time favorite novels. xox

    • jessflaxman@gmail.com says:

      we’ve always known we are kindred, Linds! Phantom Tollbooth is definitely my favorite childhood fantasy, too. xx