Staff Pick: Found

Found I & II: The best lost, tossed, and forgotten items from around the world. (Fireside) By Davy Rothbart

Found in North Carolina in a contributor's front yard: Dear Ron . . . The longer I think about what I'm doing, the sicker I feel. Ron, I'm sorry but I don't think that we should continue a relationship together . . . I love you but things have not been the same since we found out that we were related.

Found in Maine on a storefront sign: Today is my grandmother's 100th birthday, and there is a raccoon in my bathroom. Will open at 3 p.m. Thanks!

Found in Delaware: Hey grouchy! Don't call me 'til you have good news about my limes, the Goonies, and Rhode Island!

Found attached to a balloon in Atlanta: I miss you so much. How is heaven? I just love you so much. Please show me you still remember me.

Found in Wisconsin: AJ, we have your binder. You will never see it again unless you place a sum of $3.50 directly under the clock to the left of the door at precisely 1:15. Please do not inform the teacher of this transaction. If you mess this up, you WILL regret it.

 Glimpsing people's personal lives is undeniably amusing. We are voyeurs by nature — which makes the discovery of a stranger's crumpled self-reminder on the floor in your office both uncomfortable and exquisitely gratifying. Davy Rothbart, the creator of Found magazine, makes the most of his curiosity and self-proclaimed kleptomania by turning a downright brilliant collection of submitted things into a lost-and-found gold mine.

Rothbart catalogues secrets that are awkward, thrilling, hilarious, frightening, shocking, heartwarming, embarrassing, and unforgettable. You'll find more than 500 pages filled with the mundane, the spectacular, and the just plain strange: love letters, hate letters, to-do lists, confessions, missing person and pet signs, cryptic scribbling, notices, photos, outcries, scandals, and school assignments. Initially, Rothbart seems to be sticking his nose where it doesn't belong, exposing the intimate aspects of people's lives that were never intended for us to analyze. But as the publishers explain, Found is simply "an uncommon tribute to and commentary on everyday life." And of course the names have been changed so if someone recognizes your handwriting in a note confessing the truth about an STD-related mystery, no one can be totally sure.

Copied directly from the original, the artifacts are arranged in scrapbook style, accompanied by the name of the submitter and, if needed, the story behind the find. The pages feature everything you could possibly discover in a gutter or bus seat worth putting in your pocket for a second look. Among the treasures: an intriguing note to a friend asking him to "check out" the spider webs on his bike before destroying them, a warning against a loose pet iguana on the porch, and an explanation of the reasons behind a brutal suicide.

Found's candor provides a rare and humbling study of the human condition. It's an experience that connects readers to universal emotions, but also gives us a chance to live in a stranger's perspective. Although you will laugh through many of the pages, there is a haunting sense of both distance and emotional attachment. Fortunately for the curious-at-heart, we can stop hiding our nosiness — Rothbart (and crew) have done the "creepy" part for us. Certainly for me, Found is a book that I hate to love.

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