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 abebooks.com.

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