Leopold Broom Investigates: The Magic of Charity Shops

Leopold Broomby Lee Cross

I like searching for books in Charity Shops. It’s as simple as that.

I don’t mean second-hand book stores or independent sellers, like the fellows you see on London’s south bank, or in Dublin’s temple bar area. I’m referring to shops that rely entirely on public donations for their stock; places like Barnardo’s, OXFAM, CASA and many, many more.

The difference? Well for a start they are not there to sell you product. They don’t care if a book has a Richard and Judy sticker (my country folk’s version of the Oprah seal of approval – for the record nobody gets a car…) or are backed by a sexy advertising campaign.

Everything gets arranged in a haphazard fashion, clumped together on shelves or piles on the floor. The only visible distinction made is between ‘hard’ and ‘paper’ back editions, with the rule of thumb being the former cost about double the price of the later – In my part of the world that equates to 2Euro / 1Euro pretty much everywhere. No adjustments are made for factors like the quality of the text (…be that metaphysical or whether the paper would be better suited to hanging, however temporarily, in a bathroom…), how popular it is likely to be with customers, or… well anything.

Of course there are exceptions, places where organisation has taken place, where consideration has been taken. These CS. actually advertise themselves as bookshops and charge accordingly – personally I would class them alongside the indie sellers I’ve mentioned above and outside the sphere of the non-profits I’m referring too.

That’s my perspective anyway, you’re entitled to your own, but as this is my blog I hope you’ll run with me for just another few paragraphs.

So, why do I like hunting for books in Charity Shops? Well it’s not because you can find hidden tomes of near forgotten wit and charm, although that does occasionally happen (I’m thinking about you Andrew Wedderburn and your Milk Chicken Bomb) but rarely. You’ve heard of rocking horse s**t? …think rarer, much rarer.

If you’re looking for a specific title, don’t even bother walking through the door. Fate will always be against you, be it the hand of God or those of Stephen King’s equally omnipresent lawyers, the book you’re looking for will have been plucked from the shelves mere moments before you get to them.

The more you want it, the more frustrating the search becomes. Time and again you’ll find a book by the same author that you’ve already have or a title you haven’t but decide to take a chance on, only to discover it’s so bad you’ll never risk reading the original focus of your interest – regardless of any positive reviews or referrals.

If you want specific book and you want it cheap, save your soles, sell your soul and use the internet to shop online.


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