by Lee Cross
So, why do I love them??? I mentioned haphazard before but that doesn’t mean random. Once you have eyes to see there are as many distinct groupings and subsections as you’d find in any other sellers. They’re just not the sort of categories you’re ever likely to see on the high street:
Divorce – I love a good divorce me. Sometimes I’ll walk into a CS. and clearly see a large clump of books all squeezed together against a book end, with the sign nobody printed reading clearly, ‘the cheating b*****d!’, or, ‘that lousy no good b *****d’, or, ‘well if he thinks my sister is so much prettier…’, …well you get the idea.
In case God or the lawyers have followed me past possible copyright infringements, I want to go on the record and say I don’t condone infidelity, but that doesn’t mean I’m not prepared to profit from it. Quite honestly I don’t know that I’ve ever paid full price for a Spy/Detective novel or a sports bio, which is fortunate because I’ve read some truly awful ones along the way.
When I find that ‘divorced’ grouping on the shelf I know I could be in for a real treat. The books are always in excellent condition, hard jacketed and have maybe been read once if you are unlucky – I don’t mean to imply that committed bookworms are more likely to make committed partners (…actually…?), they’re just more likely to get their books out of the house before the locks are changed.
Yesterdays fads – Repeat covers as indistinguishable from one another as dribble printed within. I couldn’t even begin to guess at how many next to new copies I’ve seen of the Curious Incident of The Da Vinci Code in The Twilight I’ve seen dumped over the years.
Endlessly seeming to multiply, as if their being rubbed together over and over, by casual browsing enquiries, could in some way be causing them to reproduce.
Children leaving home for college – Another cause for donations that stands out clearly on the shelves, usually as a large grouping of books based around a common theme or written by the same author.
Thinking of my own experiences in Dublin, I see David Eddings Belgarath series all over the place (yet never any or his follow up books, which poses the question, are they better and thus retained, or perhaps worse and never purchased in the first place?), lots of Derek Landy, scatterings of the King and complete box sets of Stephanie Meyer.
These former kids books have all been well handled, have corners turned at shorter intervals than I tend to find in novels aimed at more mature attention spans. Something I personally love is finding well read books complete with bent spines and broken backs because they remind me of when I was younger, with books pressed up to my face in bed and only the light from under the door to read by. (Yes – I’m wearing glasses now. Yes – my mum was right, I did damage my eyes. But – I don’t care, it was totally worth it)
Sometimes the book has been damaged in that perfect way, where it falls open naturally to the absolutely key moment in the plot, or perhaps the part where the teen reader was most engaged might be a better way of putting it.
I still have a copy of ‘Wizard and Glass’ on my own shelf that pops open on the exact page where the teenage protagonist shoots the aged and grizzly bad guy dead from the back of his horse. Even now, two decades later, I can still remember and feel that page perfectly. That broken spine doesn’t just remind me of what the book was about, it reminds me of the thoughts and feelings it conjured in my own heart and mind twenty years past.
Finding much loved donations of that sort always makes me wonder what the boys and girls who had owned them were thinking and feeling at the time. Whether that memory still lives on with them or if it has gone the way of high school Shakespeare, recalled only as fact, with no notion of shape or form.
The death of a parent: It’s a tragedy. Always. Life is limited and for the living, only in literature can a person live forever.
When I’m searching through Charity Shops I’m really searching through scatterings of other people’s past, which is heading way too deep for a blog about books…so I’ll stay on track… books remind us of both the good and the bad… inherited books especially… a lifetime of thoughts, feelings and memories can be conjured by the sight of a book shelf.
Sometimes the pain of that lost love is too much, so the books are given away because those left behind could never bring themselves to throw them away.
I could keep going on but I guess my point is this – I love looking for books in charity shops because there is a lot more to read in them than just what’s printed on the pages.
Good, bad or terribly boring (I’ve deliberately skipped the unwanted Christmas / Birthday presents section) they all have another story to tell, all you have to do is use your reading eyes to see it.