Saturday, 23 March 2013

Second Hand Books

If, like me, you buy books faster than you read them then you'll know how easy it is to find yourself drawn into every single charity shop or market stall when you go shopping. Unless of course you're not a fan of buying second hand books, and you're perfectly entitled to buy brand new books your entire life if you want, but I'd like to share with you some of the pleasures of getting your books second hand.
       Whenever I go out shopping, my friends and family have long grown accustomed to the fact that I will want to take a look in pretty much every charity shop we pass, and that it's more than likely I'll be leaving with a new book under my arm; there's something about the sight of second hand books that makes me gravitate towards them. Getting pretty, brand new books is great, but getting a battered, bent and bruised one is, in my opinion, even better. My dad claims that I 'rescue' books, and in a way I guess he's kind of right; when I see them waiting to be sold I just want to take one of them with me and give it a new home on my bookshelf so it can be friends with all my other books.
       (Yes. I'm aware of how peculiar I'm making myself sound.)
       Personally I think that second hand books are a lot more fun than brand spanking new ones; they have more stories to tell than the one on their pages, and sometimes they'll even give you little clues. For example, a couple of years ago I was in a charity shop when I came across an old copy of Richard Adams's Watership Down and I bought it for around eighty pence or something. When I got home and I was able to flick through the pages a little more thoroughly - all while inhaling that gorgeous old book smell - a small square of paper fell out into my lap. It wasn't a note from the future or a love letter or a map to some sunken treasure, it was a receipt.
       Sounds pretty boring, huh? Well not to me because the receipt was from when the book had been originally bought in the 1970s. All this time that book had been passed from charity shop to charity shop or person to person and that little piece of paper had stayed with it, and I just thought that was pretty damn cool. I still have the receipt now, safely tucked away in the pages of the book as a little bookmark; it'd be wrong to separate the two of them now. I'd never have discovered that if I hadn't been snooping about charity shops.
       Recently I've also started buying second hand books online, something that I highly recommend. Twice now I've managed to buy a book for just a penny from a second hand bookseller on amazon, and though, like all second hand books, their pages are a little more yellow and their edges are a little more dog-eared they're still in great condition. Just today I received a hardback, second hand copy of Susan Fletcher's Corrag in the mail after paying just a penny for it, and it's actually an old library copy. It still has a few stickers inside it and a plastic covering but the book has so much more character than any first hand copy, and I just love it. Plus let's not forget that it was originally priced at £14.99, so I've made a pretty good saving there.
       When there are so many second hand books out there that are still in great condition why buy a brand new copy? It's a sad fact that lots of books which are thrown out or are given away end up becoming landfill, and personally I think that's unacceptable. How can you just throw a book into the trash? If it's beyond readable then surely it can at least be recycled? So not only can you save a lot of money by buying second hand books, but you can also help the planet by taking books home with you so that they don't end up in a hole in the ground. Stories are made to be told, it'd be such a waste to let them get thrown out and into the dark.
       So there's my mini-gush about the joy of second hand books. During the time it has taken me to write this I've actually just ordered another cheap, pre-owned book off amazon. Oops.
       I hope everything's great where you are!
       Toodles! J.