Second Hand Book Binge

There is always something nice about going to small towns or villages and having a good old nosey through their second hand book or charity shops looking for a bargain or two. I have noticed that in the bigger cities you tend to get more of the modern or contemporary books whilst in the towns and villages there is a wider range of treats to be had. This seemed the case when I extended a trip to do some shopping for Gran, as she had guests so wasn’t just left on her own, and I managed to pop to see what I could find in Matlock. Alas I didn’t find any Persephone books, as I was secretly hoping, but I did come away with all of these…

Second Hand Book Binge

I do like to read true crime now and again, though actually not as much as I think I do in my own head, and ‘The Killing of Julia Wallace’ by John Gannon seemed like the ideal find. Apparently this was ‘Liverpool’s most enigmatic and brutal murder’ that has remained unsolved since it happened in 1931. Now living so near Liverpool, on the Wirral, I have seen this book in lots of the ‘local interest’ sections of bookshops and so I snapped it up (with that ‘ooh I have a bargain’ feeling) there and then.

I had never heard of Tadeusz Borowski or his book ‘This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen’ but when I saw this Penguin Twentieth Century Classic that was partly what made me buy it. This book is actually a selection of accounts from Borowski himself from his time in Auschwitz as well as other people who survived and indeed those who didn’t but he witnessed or learnt the stories of. I have a feeling it is going to be a rather difficult read but one that I think I should experience if you know what I mean.

On a much lighter note, well that said its meant to have some very dark parts, next up is Patrick Gale’s ‘The Cat Sanctuary’. I picked this up for three reasons, firstly I seem to have rediscovered my love for Gale’s books after a few years absence and so want to get them all, secondly it is a tale of siblings torn apart which I always find an oddly compelling premise and thirdly because I am slightly worried I may end up becoming a crazy old cat man or turn this house into a cat sanctuary with the rate I have gained felines this year.

The next three books were all bought for the same reason… I love the authors but didn’t have copies of these books. Actually not quite true, my mother lent me her copy of Muriel Spark’s ‘The Only Problem’ and will want it back at some point so I thought I would pre-empt that. Speaking of my mother this edition of Margaret Atwood’s ‘Lady Oracle’ makes me think of her as most of my mother’s Atwood editions are these, I think now, rather brilliant bold 80’s editions. I think I have ‘The Edible Woman’ in the same cover edition too. As for ‘The White Company’, well you can never have too many short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as far as I am concerned and I loved this old edition – makes me think of what the books history might be.

Now you may be wondering why I didn’t include Susan Hill in my favourite author sweeping statement above, after all she is one of them. Yet this collection of ‘Ghost Stories’ is just that; a collection of spooky tales as selected by Susan Hill. I have to say I had no idea this book even existed but was thrilled when I spotted it and so it simply had to leave the shop with me.

Though all these books, and in particular John Gannon’s and Susan Hill’s, thrilled me as I found them I think that ‘Agatha Christie’s Murder in the Making’ was the one that had me doing a secret little jig of joy when I spied it. I thought that John Curran’s previous book on the Queen of Crime ‘Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks’ was wonderful when I read it (I reviewed it almost two years to the day) and I always meant to get my hands on this latest when it came out last year. So seeing this (and this was the most expensive of my purchases) for just £2 really thrilled me. I was so excited to see it that I didn’t look at any of the other books on the shelves in the final shop as I just wanted to escape with this find. I probably looked quite shifty.

All in all, for a whopping £5.25 I don’t think I did too badly, do you? Have you read any of these and if so what did you think? What are your thoughts on second hand books? I recently shockingly discovered that Gavin doesn’t like them! Is he mad? What are the best bargains you have found? I don’t think anything beats my Persephone haul as yet.


Filed under Book Spree, Random Savidgeness, Second Hand Book Binge

34 responses to “Second Hand Book Binge

  1. elizabeth

    wow. you found the borowski book that i feel no one has read and should. i was assigned that book in a world civilization class in college. otherwise, i don’t think i would have ever heard of it myself. a difficult, but necessary read.

    • I spotted the Borowski and thought ‘why have I never heard of this?’ as it seemed like the kind of book that should have been mentioned by a lot more people. I will report back.

  2. frocksandcakes

    I love second hand book shops very much,my favourites are in Lincoln on Steep Hill.
    My best finds I think are copies of Punch also a Illustrated London News from 1874…best book finds are a first edition of Sketches By Boz from 1907 and a original orange Penguin edition of Vile Bodies both I got for under ten pounds.

  3. Laura Caldwell

    Most of my books are bought second-hand, mostly from a section in my library where paperbacks are 50 cents and hardcovers 1 dollar. I also buy many used books from Amazon and either free or very cheap downloads for Nook or Kindle. My favorite buy is a perfect hardcover copy of my favorite book The Secret History, the one with the plastic cover. (Not worth a lot, but I love it!) I find paperback copies frequently and buy them for 50 cents to give to others. When I find a hardcover of a book for that I love and that I have in paperback, I buy the hardcover for 1 dollar and donate the paperback to the library sale. My eyes light up when I find a green Virago Modern Classics, but that happens very seldom here. A Persephone has never happened yet.

    • I have a small thing to admit actually, I cannot buy books from the library, they tend to be too battered and also they have stickers all over them here in the UK which just puts me off, even if they are like 10p.

  4. David

    Agh, I’m afraid I’m with Gavin on this one – I love looking around second hand bookshops but I almost never buy unless the book is in pristine condition or it is out of print or very hard to find and I really really want to read it. I’m not overly fond of library books either (though I do use the library a lot for non-fiction/reference) – I know many people think that a book looking read and loved gives it life, but I like them brand new. The idea of other people’s grubby mitts, food spillages, nose-pickings and cigarette smoke puts me right off reading them.

    • Wow, I didn’t think anyone would dislike a second hand bookshop and now I have found two of you, possibly more to come. I love the thrill of finding some great out of print books though, I can join you in with the love of that one.

      I have to admit that I don’t really like books when they have been too spine cracked or dog eared, I won’t buy those.

  5. I can thoroughly recommend the Susan Hill anthology!

  6. love old spark cover ,all the best stu

  7. Ruthiella

    I love shopping for used books. Your recent Persephone find has me drooling (they are expensive in the UK, just think how much more expensive they are when ordering from the U.S.). I did find a hard copy of A.S. Byatt’s Possession recently for $4 which I considered a very lucky find. Like Laura, most of my 2ond hand purchases are at the library and the selection is very uneven (lots of Danielle Steele and Jonathan Kellerman). I was recently at fabulous 2ond hand shop in Boulder, Colorado, but I only had a small bag for traveling and consequently sought out and purchased only one book (Middlemarch in an Oxford University Press paperback edition) for your upcoming Classically Challenged series.

    • The Persephone find was quite something, with that and the rare Nancy Mitford I found once I might have had my life times worth of finds.

      Thank you for picking up Middlemarch, I am planning on starting that quite soon.

  8. A second hand Muriel Spark! What a lovely find. I’m afraid I take the easy way out and buy my second hand books from Alibris and Abebooks. They also have quite a few second hand Persephone books too.

    • Ooooh do they? Right I will be lingering on that site more and more over the next decade while I try and read them all. Mind you I have got the first four or five already. Not that I am telling a certain someone that I purchased those lately.

  9. sharkell

    I have a lot of charity shops where I live and whenever I get a spare few minutes, I tend to drop in for a look. I have bought many, many second hand books, so many that my shelves are overflowing.

  10. I LOVE secondhand bookshops and the treasures that can be found. We have a biannual bookfair that comes to our small town that raises funds for charity which a bookish friend and I anticipate with glee! They allow you to fill a shopping bag for $5 so that is a bargain. There is also a certain nostalgia that I love in picking up a preloved book and the little treasures within like notes in the margins, a gift inscription or a bus ticket that served as a bookmark. I once found a first edition hardcover of Kate Grenville’s ‘ Lillian’s Story’ in excellent condition. I doubt it is worth much but a favourite novel and one I am pleased to display on my shelves. I havent read any of your haul but an Atwood is sure to be worth a look.

    • Wow a whole shopping back for $5? That would prove lethal to me. I do love some of the wonderful things that you can find in second hand bookshops. I have a box filled with postcards and bus tickets and all sorts of unusual, trivial but important to me, things in it.

  11. Louise

    I hate second hand books!… I am completely anal about it… I have no idea where they’ve been, how clean the previous owners were or what state their house was in! There are some folks who don’t wash their hands after going to the toilet, these same people most likely sneeze into their books too.. I read the other day that libraries are over flowing with bed bugs!! Yuck!

    • Wow, that is quite a reaction indeed. I just ignore all the things that you mention above, though you have made me think a little bit about it and I feel a bit less keen on them. It will pass, the bargain buzz takes over.

  12. I love second hand books and bookshops. They are my favourite. Of course that is where I find all the old Penguin books I so lovingly collect. I must admit though for every 4 Penguins I buy I also pick up 1 or 2 non Penguins. I might just have a look at them and give them away or flog them off again on eBay. I love selling books on eBay but it is getting harder these days w/ postage costs rising. Enjoy your big haul above. Pam

  13. I love a good scout around the 8 charity shops on my High Street. Just the other day I was out looking for Secret Santa gifts for my BookCrossing group and happened upon 27 Three Investigators books (kids’ detective books to which I was addicted as a child). I have only found them in ones and twos before – amazing haul! Plus, erm, some others, too. Did get my Secret Santa stuff, too, though, and the recipient liked them!

    • Wow eight, that is quite good going. I have ten but three of them are rubbish and I don’t visit them even on the off chance. They are all the sort of charity shops that smell a bit. That isn’t meant to sound snobbish!

  14. I do love a bargain, and have found some real treasures in second hand book shops and charity shops..although some of the stains and debris I’ve come across inside the covers have given me the screaming horrors! Not to mention the smells…and the comment about bed bugs over flowing in libraries made me spill my tea! I am so not reading library books in bed anymore!

    • Hahahaha I can think of a couple of screaming horrors. A dead and flattened spider once fell out of a book I had bought. I don’t like alive spiders, let alone dead ones.

      I don’t think the library book rumour is true. Use your library.

  15. Barbara B.

    I love used bookstores and since I work in one (in the large Paperback Room) I essentially am working and shopping at the same time. How great is that! I now have a new found interest in several genres including science fiction, intrigue, and even westerns.

  16. Louise Trolle

    Hmm Simon – did you see this? Perfect christmas wish 🙂

    • Oh I have seen this. I have debated it, but I quite like the idea of trying to find copies, I will bear it in mind though so thank you, and big thanks for doing Other People’s Bookshelves this week! Have you seen it yet?

  17. That’s a Muriel Spark I’ve yet to read…and intending to read a lot more of her in the next few months. Look forward to hearing your thoughts.

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