The Light Between Oceans | An Unexpected Journey

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While looking through the winners from the Goodreads book awards I came across The Light Between Oceans, I though it looked interesting and added it onto my ‘to be read’ list along with a number of other books. At the end of December I had some Christmas money to spend and started looking through my ‘to be read’ list to pick some books. The Light Between Oceans happened to be at the top of this list and was cheap so that was added to the cart.


When the book was delivered I had a quick flick through it and came across a seat reservation. I though that was sort of interesting as I’ve never found anything in second hand books before. As I’m sure everyone knows train tickets are some of the best free bookmarks you can find and I decided to keep the ticket. When I finally got around to reading the book I found something even more interesting. A receipt for the book. Normally thats not very interesting but it turns out this book had been bought in Colorado and yet had somehow ended up in my hands in Scotland.

This was slowing turning into a puzzle. I knew that the book had been bought at a Barnes & Noble on the 19th of July. I know that the owner was on the 08:51 train from Oxford to Reading on the 3rd of August. Then somehow this book ended up on the shelf of a charity shop in Devon where I bought it via Amazon.

This made me wonder about the owner of the book. I assume it was a woman and had been bought as a holiday read. I assume it was an older couple that went on holiday as there were two train seats on the reservation and flights to the UK are rather expensive. But what I don’t understand is how the book ended up at a charity shop in Devon and why had the ticket been left in it. Did the owner not like the book and not finish it. Therefore forgetting they had left the ticket in it. Or did they finish the book and not want to bring it back to America.


Books have two stories. The one written in the pages. And the one written on the pages. This second story is special, its not written in words. Its written in rips, creases and tears. I like knowing that story. I like knowing why the pages have been folded and the cover has been torn off. But with second hand books you never know this story. But this book, The Light Between Oceans, was different. I didn’t know its full story. But I know a little bit of its journey and how it came to be sitting on my bookshelf. And I love that.


  • The Overlord Bear

    This reminds of my late paternal grandmother’s copy of Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist,” which seemed to be given to her as a gift from an aunt of mine. While I was in the later parts of the book already, I think I remember seeing a quote circled with a pen or maybe shaded with a light-colored marker. I forgot what that quote was, but from the fragments of what I remember, I think it was a really inspirational quote. That’s as far as I can remember when it comes to the first-hand markings in that book.

  • todrinkandwrite

    There is a new book – I can’t remember the title, that was created by JJ Abrams (the creator of the LOST TV series) that is kind of like your encounter – the book is filled with notes and mementos of the previous readers as part of the overall reading experience. Sounds like you may want to check it out.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog! 🙂

  • Maggie

    Wonderful! The story and the meta story. I recall seeing a display at my public library. It was a collage of all the assorted “bookmarks” they found in the returns bin. It was curated, of course, to keep it fit for “family viewing”, so the head librarian told me. Thanks for a great read.

  • violetannie63

    I love second hand books for the very fact that they are second hand, or third hand or whatever. They’ve had a life outside of my bookshelf…and I kinda like that. Great post 🙂

  • jpeggytaylor

    This post made me smile. I love little things like this too. I’m a one-time public librarian and still a regular library user. I often find notes, shopping lists and other people’s bookmarks in the books I borrow but I’ve never really found anything mysterious. When I was a librarian I think the strangest thing I ever heard of being found in use as a bookmark was a slice of cooked bacon!
    … and thanks for stopping by my blog too 🙂

  • estyree

    This post reminds me of the second hand text books I bought for my Elementary Ed/Lit degree…all of these Literature class books with notes and highlights and doodles that really brought me closer to the stories inside because of the insights and markings of the previous holders of the book. I love that feeling too!
    May you experience many new ‘on the page’ stories!

      • estyree

        I thought I would also throw in a word on my books…I think you can get a copy used on Amazon (though I’m not sure since not many people have purchased the paperbacks lol). The Stone Dragon Saga series, by Elizabeth S Tyree (Beginning with Dragon on My Neck).
        I’m planning on running a special free kindle download around my birthday at the beginning of February so if you check them out, and are interested, you can probably find them at that point.

        Or you could buy them and I get royalties…but where’s the fun in that? 😉 the give away information will be on:


  • Elizabeth

    I love this! I work in a Library so a lot of the books I read are one’s that I’ve borrowed and you find all sorts in them – from pencil notes in the margins to tickets and receipts. It’s a lovely little glimpse of someone else’s encounter with the same book you have in your hands.

  • dailypaisley

    This is an awful comment, but I have to same duvet.
    Thank you for liking my recent post. I like your idea about books having two stories. Maybe you could write this book’s second story as a piece of short fiction or as a multi-media hypertext. I think it would work out well.

  • healingpilgrim

    Hi Emma, I stumbled across your blog and was astonished to read your posting about your discoveries inside the book.. The same thing just happened to me! My sister bought “A Fortune Teller Told Me” (I’ve read it before and loved it) online in the US, and delivered it to me a few days ago in Canada. As I flipped through the pages, a plane ticket floated to the floor, and when I picked it up, I was amazed to see that it was from Malaysia Airlines. And as it happens, I first read the book when I too was in Malaysia.. no coincidence 😉

  • beautyfromwithin2out

    I loved this book, (if I remember it correctly) but then I like books which have child and parent issues, which I can relate too! Thanks for liking my BYOB(ookworm) Would yu read my book when it’s written Emma?

  • Susan Honthumb

    The picture of the book caused me to click on your blog and I’m so happy I did. What a fascinating story. In your brief little bio, you mention that you have a cat, but there’s a picture of a poop eating machine. Do you have a Labrador pup? I have four cats and three Labradors. I look forward to reading more of your blogs.

    • bluchickenninja

      Hey thanks for following. I do have a cat I just haven’t put a picture of him on my blog. Should get around to fixing that. And I have 2 black labradors. The poop eating machine and the old man.

      • Susan Honthumb

        When I first read your name of your blog, I thought it said bluechickninja, but upon further review, I saw the bluechicken. Why bluechicken? Do you have any chickens? What are the names of your Labs? I’ve got one of each flavor. Lucy is a big old yellow Labrador. The thyroid pills are supposed to help her lose weight, but she’s still over a hundred. Ricky’s about three and a half or more; he’s a chocolate mix; I’m his third person, and the one before me was neglecting him. I can’t imagine this since he’s one of the sweetest dogs I’ve ever had. And then there’s the baby, Abby the Labby Number Nine. She’s more than two years old, but she’s still my baby.
        I think I am going to really enjoy getting to know you. You mentioned in your little intro that you have a degree in computers; are you using this degree for your job? I’m a teacher.

        • bluchickenninja

          Its BluChickenNinja and its hard to explain. It started off years ago as a joke with my friends. When it came time to sign up for some website that is what I used as my username. And now I’ve had it so long I really can’t think of anything I like as much as this silly name.
          The puppy is called Alfie he is about 9 weeks old and our older dog is called Jasper who is 12 years old.
          When I was at college I mainly focused on web design. I’m now doing graphic design as its quite useful to know when designing websites. Hopefully I will be able to work as a freelance web designer.

          • bluchickenninja

            Yeah they are a lot of work. I suppose we are crate training him in a way. I just didn’t realise there was a name for it. Our older dog tolerates the puppy. But he has been getting better. I’ve seen them sleeping together a couple of times.

          • Susan Honthumb

            I love young animals. If I could have more, I would. I probably feel the same about babies, but having kids wasn’t in the cards this time around. My youngest lab is so spoiled, though all three are. You should post pictures of the two dogs together.

          • bluchickenninja

            Yeah we are really trying not to spoil him. The older dog however is pretty much allowed to do what he wants. Even sleep on the sofa. I’ve been trying to get photos of the two of them together. Its just difficult getting the puppy to sit still for long enough.

          • Susan Honthumb

            Your stories about your puppy allows me to remember what my dogs were like when they were puppies, and this is almost as good as having a puppy. Speaking of puppy, Abby is scratching at the door. How do your dogs tell you that they want in?

          • Susan Honthumb

            Abby will scratch the door; we’re thankful we don’t have wood doors, and extra thankful that she doesn’t do this to go outside, only inside. Ricky stands on a chair outside the window and looks in. It’s strange because this is exactly what my other Chocolate Labrador used to do. Lucy just waits for someone to open the door. I have to check for her during the cold times to see if she’s out just waiting.

  • merlinspielen

    That is the magic of real physical books. ebooks will just never ever gather that patina of history as they move through time. I go on journeys with a “trip” reading book or two and if I am finished and discover a used bookstore I will trade in my books for new ones.

    • bluchickenninja

      Exactly. I love ebooks. I think they are fantastic bits of technology. But they will never be the same as a real book.

      • merlinspielen

        I have been buying more “electronic” versions of reference books for the computing stuff I do. And really tech books and reference books are outdated so fast it is a waste to do otherwise! But books for personal reading are still paper for me – I tend to read multiple books at once so leave them scattered where I can just pick ’em up and start reading 🙂

        • bluchickenninja

          Yeah all the Computing books I got were as ebooks. Thats only because I didn’t want to pay £100 for a paperback copy. But I prefer having a physical copy. I find them easier to flick through than searching through an ebook.

          • merlinspielen

            LOL – and that is exactly why I like my tech.computing as ebooks – so much easier to search! But I generally get those in a computer friendly ebook format – so I can use my system to search and bookmark (and screenshot) the snippets. I find ebook readers are not so friendly that way for electronic bookmarking.

  • Ste J

    This was the very first book I saw on my first ever trip to the US…I went to the West Coast and found loads of second hand British books, it does make you wonder. I like that phrase ‘Books have two stories’ I shall examine my next purchases more deeply.

  • The Sourcerist

    Great post, the cover of that book reminds me of the cover of The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, I’m curious now to see how they might compare.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog

  • ladyharvey

    This was such a great mystery! I actually used to write my name, where I bought a book, and the date in each book I purchased just so future readers could have a second layer of information on the book. I also love books that have things written in them and lines underlined as it gives insight into past readers thoughts. Think I will have to go back to my old tradition and start underlining things again!

  • curiousdaisies

    Totally understand. I love second hand books too. Knowing that there is a story behind the person who owned it before me makes it all the more special.

  • sandradan1

    That is so true. I love the books I buy at Oxfam which have notes written inside and names in the front, it always starts me wondering about the lives of previous owners and imagining their lives 🙂 SD

    • bluchickenninja

      A few months ago I started buying most of my books from charity shops. I’ve found tickets, receipts, photographs and vouchers. I love finding stuff in them, its really interesting seeing what other people use as bookmarks.

  • Bex Crowell

    I am leaving this comment on Wednesday, 7 Oct. 2015… a long time after you wrote the entry. I found your blog because I was looking up something my friend, Susan Honthumb, had written and this blog, with her comment, came up in the Google Search. You drew me in right away, but whenever I saw you lived in Scotland – boink! I had to read on… I love old books too. I will always try to find a book as “used” rather than new. I use Abe Books a lot to find really old ones… I even found a first edition of “The Edwardians” by Vita Sackville-West recently… and it’s grand! Old and musty and grand! And it wasn’t all that expensive either.

    My husband and I have been married almost 30 years and went to the UK on our honeymoon in 1986, and went up into Scotland to Oban, Inverness, Nairn, Edinburgh, Glasgow… all around… and back into Yorkshire which is where we have left our heart… we went back 7 more times after than but I can’t travel any more. We live across the pond in Salem, Massachusetts, USA.

    So nice to meet you. Not sure you read very old comments… but what the heck. I will read more of yours…

    • bluchickenninja

      Hi Bex, nice to meet you 🙂 I always find it interesting how people find my blog so thats nice. I love used books, I’ve actually started leaving tickets and things in my books so when they go to charity shops someone else might find them.

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