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Why second hand books?


Second hand, preloved, used, read. Whatever term you want to use, it all means the same. Books that someone has read previously.


I love second hand books. I really do. I think most people do.


In my teen years, a book shop opened in my home town of Chorley, and it sold second hand books. And I ADORED it. It is, I would say, what sparked my own desire for a book shop. It was small, but it was crammed with books, most of which were second hand. A lot of books I needed when at uni came from here. Indeed, my love affair with OLD books started here, when I discovered an 1819 publication of Shakespeare’s Complete Works. Being a poor student wasn’t stopping me and I bought it (at the time I was becoming a bit obsessed with Shakespeare, but that’s a story for another time.)


When I was in my early twenties, I borrowed a copy of the Unbearable Lightness of Being from a friend of my then-boyfriend. When I opened it, the dog-eared pages just struck me. I don’t know why, but they did.


And that, I would say, is where my real love affair with the used, second hand book, truly began. (I never did return the book, dear reader. The boyfriend and I broke up and so the friend dropped off the radar and I still have it tucked away somewhere).


There really is something so romantic about it. I like to say that each used book tells a story of its previous reader/s. Because it does. It shows whether that owner was a page folder, a note taker, a ‘random bookmark’ user, someone who keeps books neat, or someone who bashes them about a bit.


Sometimes, you can find all sorts of treasures and personal artefacts in second hand books. I once found a photocopy of someone’s driving license, and it made me smile. It’s these little things.


Along with this, there is the nostalgia, and the fact you are otherwise saving a book from a landfill or recycling fate. These books haven’t served their purpose yet, they are being given a new lease of life.


A book does not lose its purpose once it has been read, after all. No matter how bashed up that cover is, or how folded over those pages are, it is still readable. (For what its worth, my copy of Girlfriend in a Coma has a chunk of one of the final pages missing - it is rather infuriating when trying to read as I have to skip half of 2 pages, yet I plough on and pray I haven’t missed anything in those few missed words!) And this is the crux of it - why discard something because we have finished with it?


Which leads me to my next point: as well as this charm and romance, a second hand book is far more environmentally friendly. No more trees needed to be chopped down for you to read the book - although granted, you may not always be able to get the newest releases. And of course, they are often cheaper to boot.


So by buying second hand, you are getting a tiny slice of someone else's reading history, helping the environment, and probably saving money to boot! What’s not to love!?





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