I have long enjoyed some randomness in the matter of book choice. Oh I have favourite authors, I browse book shops for their latest, I read reviews, take recommendations from friends and belong to reading groups. This reading is all that is great, but the random buy, that hidden gem that can be found in odd places in out of time places, appeals to the prospector, the forager in my nature.
Where can one find these small jewels? Nowadays the sources are many, in my youth not so. Back then I relied on forgotten books, on deserted train seats, hotel rooms and foyers, on other people’s book shelves and of course second-hand book shops.
‘Second hand’ is the wrong name they should be ‘new lease of life’ – ‘second chance’. However, they were many and packed to the rafters; they are fewer now in the recession days but still, many a visit to a new town or village will present an opportunity to explore. There are the books; often minus the gaudy covers designed to ‘sell’ them, who needs a cover! Or better still old, old, out of fashion covers – immediately conjuring up bygone days. The books will be crammed in, using every space available, and, at times, seeming to stretch that space. Where to start, which to pull down, into your waiting hands first. How much time do you have before the book seller needs to go home?
Other places I find my delights include; charity shops, boot fairs and libraries. Libraries sell off books on a regular basis, especially in the non fiction area. I often find works I had never thought of looking for. The same holds true for the others Aladdin caves. Amongst charity donations are the small bins or shelves that other shops have, usually on the way out. The other day I found, in a charity bin placed by the door of our local DIY shop, a slim volume packed with the grim but fascinating account of the siege of Beirut written by a mother who went through it.
At boot fairs I have found wonderful travel books and reference books, I have also tried new authors in the sci fi / fantasy field and modern horror stories.
Running out of reading matter also brings up some good surprises, that is when I am driven to looking at other people’s book shelves, stranded in a house, for instance , back in the 60s I picked up my first Dorothy Dunnet. What a find, I have them all and still enjoy re-reading them. Stranded with nothing to read in the Australian outback, I read every one of the Jackaroo’s collection of lurid science fantasy books – those covers were extraordinary, graphic and semi pornographic! That did put me off fantasy for a while:). These books from other shelves are not bought purchases but have led me to find my own copies.
This foraging not only appeals to my prospector’s soul but other parts of my psyche. I love a bargain! Who doesn’t? For a pound I went home with 5 books from the library. My last trip to a boot fair allowed me four hard backed reference books and six paper backs for the princely sum of three pounds. The charity shelves/bins are donations, the charity shops? – well the most expensive has been two pound a book but mostly they stay down below fifty pence. So inexpensive, my TBR pile never diminishes.
But also the whole fun of it appeals to my passion for re-cycling. I am the compost queen and we very rarely put out a re-cycling bin for collection because we re-cycle everything we can. These ‘second-hand’ books are having a new life with me. They point my mind into new directions, open up new horizons and settle in very well on my bookshelves, never feeling uncomfortable in their gentile shabbiness. They have come among books whose age stretch back to the early 1800s and can show them a thing or two in ‘shabby’.
Have I room for all these pearls? No. Do I have enough years left to read them? Probably not. Will I stop looking for/finding/buying them? I shouldn’t think so. Books are my addiction, my vice, my sin and I shall go to my cardboard box in the ground rejoicing at the sinning.