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September: Second-Hand Book Month

September 20, 2010

It’s that time of year again. September is Second-Hand Book Month here. Off the top of my head, I can think of three separate book sales in the upcoming weeks, all of which I will be patronizing.

There’s something beautiful about a second hand book. Personally, I’d take a dusty, crumbling tome over the shiny new Big Brand Bookstore version any day. Why? Well, partly it’s that old books come with their own history. Sometimes you get names or words scribbled in the margins- I love finding these and speculating about what hands this book has passed through. What did its previous owners think of it? Who will own this book after me? Then there’s the smell. You know the one I mean: the delightful, spicy smell that puts you in mind of hushed libraries. It’s practically intoxicating.

Along with the actual, physical book, these second hand sales give you something the brightly lit chain stores never can.

The thrill of the hunt.

Picture this: you walk into the hall of an old university. The lights are dim, voices are low. People stalk tables of books, making slow, stealthy movements. Dust motes dance in the air. The search is on.

Sometimes I have specific prey in mind. I prefer to get my copies of the classics second-hand, or maybe I want something by a specific author. But it’s better to go in blind. You always find the best books when you’re not looking for them.

That being said, these halls are huge, the tables endless. Having a “hunting ground” helps. Mine tend to be in the SF areas (surprise!) but I also frequent Mythology, History, and Poetry. The adrenaline surge as I near my quarry must be similar to what some people feel when faced with sample or shoe sales.

Of course, when you’re not looking for anything specific, how do you decide what to get? Some leaps of faith are necessary. They say to never judge a book by its cover, but sometimes, you have to make snap decisions. Especially when little old ladies are elbowing you from behind. I’m a sucker for old, leather bound books. Works by authors I know and like are usually a good bet.  Cool cover art or an intriguing title occasionally earn a book a spot in my bag, though the jacket blurb tends to be the dealbreaker.

Some books are different. They are the long-shot, just-because-it’s-a-dollar, special feeling books. The one on which your eyes stop for no apparent reason. The one sticking out just enough for your finger to trip over its spine. These books don’t get hunted. No, they get adopted. Book Gods, Book Karma, Fate, call it what you want, but I do believe that we find the books we’re meant to read. And somehow, they very rarely turn up at the big name stores.

Maybe that’s the dust-filled air talking. But I do know one thing:

I love September.  

-Arvik

PS. Thanks for all the good wishes. My head still hurts, but words seem to be stringing together in coherent sentences today. 🙂

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4 comments

  1. Sounds awesome.

    I agree with you: “we find the books (and blogs) we’re meant to read.”

    Happy Hunting. Glad you’re on the mend.


  2. Let us know what treasures you find! I won’t be hitting the stores this year, need lots of undisturbed time to seek out good finds.


  3. nice blogs. thank you
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  4. I’ll keep you updated! My bookshelf is looking a little bare; it’ll be nice to fill it again. 🙂



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