I am trying to get a bit fitter at the moment and am therefore forcing myself to walk the four miles home from work every day (not as strenuous or as time-consuming as it sounds trust me!) However, the only way I can persuade myself to walk the same long road home day in day out is by catching up on the latest Guardian books podcasts on the way, which are usually excellent and really do inspire some interesting inner monologues of the bookish variety for me later on in the evening. In one of the latest installments, a passing comment by American author Anne Fadiman about the joyfully haphazard state of certain second hand bookshops got me thinking about book buying habits and about an exchange I’d had with my Mum on our last charity shop binge together.
‘Oooo! Here’s a nice copy of Birdsong!’ I cried, finding it wedged between Memoirs of a Geisha and some obscure book of poetry by an unheard of English author. ‘Oooo! Here’s another copy and it’s even nicer!’ I called two minutes later, finding it shoved in between a Paulo Coelho bestseller and Ainsley Harriot’s latest cookbook …
I completely understand and advocate alphabetisation and all other manner of organisation and cleanliness in, say, a library or your average chainy bookstore because when I go into such places I usually know exactly what I’m after. However, like Anne, I find that the utmost joy can be had in those dusty little forgotten back rooms of charity shops that have never seen any form of organisation in their short lives…it inspires me. What could I possibly happen upon next? A bit of Jilly Cooper/Marianne Keyes oooorr an absolute gem of a first edition by an author you simply weren’t expecting to come across?
Oooh the excitement .. Now the vital question is will the last little bit of spending money left till pay day stretch to two, or three or five new/old books plucked out of this chaos ??