Wednesday I met a friend for lunch at BYU and while I was there, I walked into a bookstore sale in that huge glass room in the Wilkinson Center. The books were laid out on long banquet tables and one table had a sign over it that said “Text Department: 95% off.”

That is how I came to buy GENERAL, ORGANIC AND BIOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY by H. Stephen Stokes.

I bought it because I like the artistry of the charts and formulas. Many of them look like the inside of a beehive coded with OH or CH2 as in the case of Formaldehyde-based polymers.

There were several copies of this text and, at first, I thought I didn’t want one that was too marked up with notes and underlinings, not wanting to be influenced by the previous reader.

As if.

In fact, I bought one that was quite marked up with charming asides like a big “Cool” and a smiley face and two asterisks in the margin next to a paragraph on Molecular Collisions. And another COOL!! along side the paragraph on Chemical Equilibrium. I wanted to meet the person who was as excited about Oxidizing Agents and Reducing Agents as I used to be about the poetry of Alexander Pope and John Dryden.

I wanted to meet the chemist/artist who drafted a portrait of Paco on page 217.

I guess what I’m saying is not only was I attracted to the strange graphs, language and formulas in the book, but I fell in love with the student who personalized its margins.

I think he was a guy, back from a Spanish-speaking mission—he’s written “mui importante” in a margin—handsome and slim, now in medical school somewhere, maybe St. Louis, with a wife who misses her mother and a baby boy named Cooper.

Such an entertaining volume for only $3.99

What cheap thing have you bought lately that makes you happy?