It should go without saying at this point that I’m something of a bibliophile. But one of my continuing goals in life is to buy fewer books. Because I have this tendency to buy books faster than I can read them. It’s hard, though, because I love books. I love how they feel. How they smell. I love curling up with a book and a glass of red wine. Especially now that it’s getting colder and darker.
Tragically, my latest effort to curb book purchases has failed, partly because I foolishly attended two book festivals and partly because there have been several used book sales in town lately. The Friends of the Library put on one. It was for charity, you guys. Charity. Do-gooding and buying books? I don’t know how I’m supposed to turn away from that.*
Now, I love me a new book. The ink is fresh. The pages are crisp. No one’s cracked the spine yet. (I have no compunctions about cracking spines.)
But used books. Used books are even better.** Used books have their own stories. Some are in pristine condition. Some, like my copy of The Turn of the Screw/Daisy Miller are falling apart, page by page loosening from the binding. Maybe a college student ditched them after a semester. Or an avid reader cleaned out an old bookcase to make room for new titles. Maybe they came from an estate. Or the bookseller bought them especially. You never know.
Sometimes there are clues, like this signed title page of Anthony Burgess’s The Wanting Seed. I couldn’t resist this book. The premise was strange and interesting (think Soylent Green, but with institutionalized infertility instead of cannibalism). But I was also drawn to the note in the front. Everyone has a different take on the name. What’s yours?
*I, uh, liberated 22 comrades.
**They’re also, let’s be honest, much more affordable. And more ethical. Reduces the amount of materials used on new books by reusing preexisting texts. So there.