Skip to main content

I love second-hand books

There is something slightly mysterious about some of them, especially when they contain inscriptions, margin notes and annotations. Others I just love because they are cheap.

If I bought every book I’m interested in at full price, I would have gone bankrupt a long time ago. Instead, I am saved from financial insolvency by second-hand bookshops and libraries.

I get most of my casual reading copies from those sources, through TitleTrader (incidentally, if you join TT through this link, I get a free trading point ;-)
or from a shop run by the local recycling company and various charities. The books at the charity shop are cheap, some are even free. I can get 18+ second-hand paperbacks there for the price of one new one, or 6-8 for the price of a second hand book from a bookstore. Of course, it is entirely up to chance whether I find anything that’s on my “want to read” list, but I usually find something that interests me.

Once a book has been on the shelves of the charity shop for a certain amount of time, it goes in the “free stuff” section, where I have picked up many books. Often, these unsaleable books include classics that no-one wants to buy because the (hard) covers are dirty and the books smell musty or smoky. Other books just don’t look tempting: they are old, the cover is missing or they are warped and water damaged. Still others just don’t seem to meet with the approval of the person who shelves the donated books and go straight to the “free stuff” section. Often these are paperback romances, thrillers or horror stories that have never reached the bestseller lists, and thus are unlikely to be of interest to many people. I have occasionally found some pretty good reads among these books that I would never have bought but took home with me because they were being given away.

The most recent "treasure" I found in the free stuff area was a paperback copy of John Kennedy Toole's Confederacy of Dunces, in a "like new" condition.

My very favourite find was a beautifully faded hardcover cloth copy of four novels by Christopher Morley, including Parnassus on Wheels and The Haunted Bookshop, both of which I had recently read and enjoyed.


I completely agree. I love the smell of old books and if I could own one store it would be a second hand book store.

Just a question, how long does it take you to read a book?
The format of your reviews is good.
Bibliophile said…
/quote/ Just a question, how long does it take you to read a book?
The format of your reviews is good. /unquote/

Thanks. I read 80-100 pages per hour in English (depending on page size, style and vocabulary), so it takes me 3-4 hours to read a book of 300 pages.
Sharon J said…
3-4 hours? It takes me 3-4 days AT LEAST! I've never understood how anybody can read that quickly as I have to keep stopping to analyse why the author chose that word, that description, that analogy etc. And to read that quickly and still understand everything you've read... well, I'm just amazed!
Bibliophile said…
Sharon, 3-4 hours is just for novels with an average reading vocabulary, i.e. not many words to figure out the meaning of or look up in a dictionary. I read books with a heavy vocabulary (e.g. academic and specialist books) slower, with many stops, and have been kown to read novels that I don’t want to end very, very slowly indeed ;-)
Anonymous said…
Have you come across a book called The John Collier Reader....or did I just dream it?
Bibliophile said…
Anonymous, I have never come across this book in my perambulations around second-hand shops, but I googled it and it exists. If you want a copy you can probably get it through

Popular posts from this blog

Book 40: The Martian by Andy Weir, audiobook read by Wil Wheaton

Note : This will be a general scattershot discussion about my thoughts on the book and the movie, and not a cohesive review. When movies are based on books I am interested in reading but haven't yet read, I generally wait to read the book until I have seen the movie, but when a movie is made based on a book I have already read, I try to abstain from rereading the book until I have seen the movie. The reason is simple: I am one of those people who can be reduced to near-incoherent rage when a movie severely alters the perfectly good story line of a beloved book, changes the ending beyond recognition or adds unnecessarily to the story ( The Hobbit , anyone?) without any apparent reason. I don't mind omissions of unnecessary parts so much (I did not, for example, become enraged to find Tom Bombadil missing from The Lord of the Rings ), because one expects that - movies based on books would be TV-series long if they tried to include everything, so the material must be pared down

List love: 10 recommended stories with cross-dressing characters

This trope is almost as old as literature, what with Achilles, Hercules and Athena all cross-dressing in the Greek myths, Thor and Odin disguising themselves as women in the Norse myths, and Arjuna doing the same in the Mahabaratha. In modern times it is most common in romance novels, especially historicals in which a heroine often spends part of the book disguised as a boy, the hero sometimes falling for her while thinking she is a boy. Occasionally a hero will cross-dress, using a female disguise to avoid recognition or to gain access to someplace where he would never be able to go as a man. However, the trope isn’t just found in romances, as may be seen in the list below, in which I recommend stories with a variety of cross-dressing characters. Unfortunately I was only able to dredge up from the depths of my memory two book-length stories I had read in which men cross-dress, so this is mostly a list of women dressed as men. Ghost Riders by Sharyn McCrumb. One of the interwove

Icelandic folk-tale: The Devil Takes a Wife

Stories of people who have made a deal with and then beaten the devil exist all over Christendom and even in literature. Here is a typical one: O nce upon a time there were a mother and daughter who lived together. They were rich and the daughter was considered a great catch and had many suitors, but she accepted no-one and it was the opinion of many that she intended to stay celebrate and serve God, being a very devout  woman. The devil didn’t like this at all and took on the form of a young man and proposed to the girl, intending to seduce her over to his side little by little. He insinuated himself into her good graces and charmed her so thoroughly that she accepted his suit and they were betrothed and eventually married. But when the time came for him to enter the marriage bed the girl was so pure and innocent that he couldn’t go near her. He excused himself by saying that he couldn’t sleep and needed a bath in order to go to sleep. A bath was prepared for him and in he went and