Nine of Diamonds

I have a personal affection for cards. Not only for the games that can be played with a deck (though I do enjoy my occasional trip to the $3/6 limit hold’em table), but because they make excellent bookmarks. They fit in every size of book, hardcover and paperback, they can poke out a little to gauge how far you’ve read through or hide and still find your spot easily. They’re wonderful.


I have this habit of trying to not only pick the right book to read – even if I’ve read it before, in some cases – but in picking the right bookmark. If I’m drawing from a 52-card collection (54 if you count the jokers, which you should never, ever do), that means I’ll take time looking over the front cover, reading the back cover’s story basics, I may even look up reviews on what I’m about to read to figure out how likely it is that I’m going to like it. And from that collection of factors, I select the appropriate card for that book. Is that weird?

Thanks to my years of working in a book reseller mailroom, complete with “bonus” stuff given by the retailers I used to accept packages from, this means I have a few loose decks of cheap cards that can be stuck into my books to mark progress.

My distraction from my current book is why I’m writing this now, Will Grayson Will Grayson. I’ve about 30 pages left to go, which will be done in a few minutes, but before I got started, I selected the nine of diamonds. If you know the structure of a classic deck of cards you might realize that such a card isn’t necessarily powerful; it’s not a face card, it’s certainly not an ace. But I have a love for this card… one of my favorite hands to play in limit hold’em is a 10-9 of diamonds for the straight and flush possibilities, and it’s a harder hand to get a grasp on when playing against it. It might end up the bottom of a straight, but that straight isn’t usually beaten. It’s a decent flush when it hits, often enough the winner against another random flush.

Might sound unusual to consider all of this before picking a bookmark, but I love my stories to the extent that I take some time to factor my own stories into the mix of new characters, new scenarios, new settings. Even if taken at face value, the nine of diamonds is a decent card – above more than half the others in value, placed third in the value of suits (only above clubs) but that strikes me as “underdog” status, and it’s a loopy number which can indicate a twisty, complicated path from beginning to the end of the pen stroke in writing it.

So many cards, so little time for reading their books.

Hell, maybe I take this too seriously. Maybe it’s unnecessary, that the only necessary part of experiencing a book is to actually read the damn thing, and to hell with the quality of a bookmark or the thought that goes into it. Maybe I’m just silly thinking that it has any relevance in my experience. But for my paperback and hardcovers – even after writing my previous post about how much better digital books are – selecting the right bookmark is a gauge of how much I expect to appreciate a text, and I’m honestly surprised when I find out I’m either right or the book is better. Or, annoyed when the book is worse, and I put the book down in disgust (I’m lookin’ at you, Armada. I might not even FINISH you).

Do you think about anything like this when picking a bookmark, or do you just grab a scrap of paper and do the job? Or do you do something else?

Stand tall, and may your bookmarks do their jobs well!