Low clouds covered the sky the next day. Morton took out his camera to survey the destruction: downed buildings, a family sitting atop a tarp in a soft drizzle. An aftershock triggered an avalanche on a nearby pass. Word began to circulate that something similar had happened some 15 miles to the northeast: the earthquake had caused a hanging serac to fall above Everest Base Camp, unleashing a slide that killed 22. As Morton was helping a friend clear personal effects out of a ruined house, a 6.6-magnitude aftershock hit and again Thame shook. Two girls standing next to him began to scream. In that moment, he experienced two visceral reactions.
The first was the desire to be near his wife and son.
The second was a deep relief that he wasn’t on Everest.
I sat transfixed and horrified through the shower sequence, felt my pulse hammer when Detective Arbogast reached the top of the stairs, and when I saw Mrs. Bates in the fruit cellar, the image was etched into my pre-pubescent brain forever, keeping me awake for many nights afterward.
And then I read the book.
Library cards have always had the same purpose—to keep track of borrowers’ loans—but originally they were invented for a different type of library. The first cards, Nix told me, were probably issued at membership libraries, 18th-century organizations where members contributed fees (and sometimes books from their own collections) in exchange for the right to check out materials. The Library Company of Philadelphia, which Benjamin Franklin co-founded in 1731, was the first membership library in the U.S., though many existed before that in England. Because they were formed by people with common interests, these libraries often coalesced around themes. Once members were allowed to walk off the premises with books, library cards—also known as tickets—made it more likely that those books would come back.