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Thought For Thursday … New Or Second Hand?


Looking through my TBR shelves and, in fact, all the other bookshelves throughout our house, I decided that I could count on the fingers of one hand, the number of books that have actually been purchased by us, from new.

Almost without exception, our vast collection of some couple of thousand books (yes that is after our massive cull of earlier in the year!), have come to us either from friends and relatives who have read them and passd them on, or, in the majority of cases, from a vast and varied selection of charity shops in various locations throughout the country.

This does mean that we are not always reading the latest releases, however, I personally think that we have found some fantastic gems of books, at great prices and overall have a rich and varied selection of both fiction and non fiction material, that we would probably not otherwise have acquired.

I am probably the worst offender for ‘doing the charity shop run’, as it is like a homing beacon to me, wherever we may be visiting, to make a beeline for the charity shops. Strange, you may think, when you consider that I volunteer in a charity shop, all day, for at least three days a week, and often more frequently, yet these shops will always draw me inside, in search of a bargain.

Bookshelves are springing up all over the place these days, as a way of fundraising, usually for various local projects and charities. From hospitals to public houses, people are being encouraged to set up a bookshelf for their visitors and patrons, as a worthwhile way to redistribute the many books that sit languishing, once read, in houses all over the country.

Book shops will always have a hold over me for browsing of course, although I will generally resist the urge to spend, as I know that I wouldn’t be able to stop at just a couple of books, or even be able to narrow down my choice sufficiently to make a purchase. However, they are a great source of material for my ever growing reading list, which has a permanent home in my handbag, just in case I come across a bookshelf to check out! I just have to stop and think how many books I could buy second hand for the same money and that’s a great reality check for me.

Similarly, libraries will always hold a special place in my heart, as it was here that some of my happiest childhood times were spent browsing the shelves, longing for the time when I would be allowed to move over to the adult library, where the fantastic world of literature would be opened up to me! These days I try to keep libraries definitely out of bounds, in fact I don’t think I even have a valid library ticket any more. I know that I would just binge and greedily take out my full entitlement of books, with little or no hope of reading many of them by their renewal date, thus depriving someone else of the opportunity to enjoy. If we were ever forced to downsize and no longer had space for our many bookshelves, then the library would be my salvation, so I will actively support any measures to keep them open as a public service, but for now I cannot imagine our home without its compliment of books.

I came across these two quotes, which summed up my feelings almost perfectly.

“Second hand books are wild books, homeless boooks; they have come together in vast flocks of variegated feather, and have a charm which the domesticated volumes of the library lack.”

“Literature is no one’s private ground: literature is common ground. Let us trespass freely and fearlessly and find our own way for ourselves.”

Both of these quotes are attributed to Virginia Woolf, an English author and regarded by many as one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the Twentieth Century.

This Title Is Available From Amazon

Virginia Woolf’s only autobiographical writing is to be found in this collection of five unpublished pieces. Despite Quentin Bell’s comprehensive biography and numerous recent studies of her, the author’s own account of her early life holds new fascination – for its unexpected detail, the strength of its emotion, and its clear-sighted judgement of Victorian values. In ‘Reminiscences’ Virginia Woolf focuses on the death of her mother, ‘the greatest disaster that could happen’, and its effect on her father, the demanding patriarch who took a high toll of the women in his household. She surveys some of the same ground in ‘A Sketch of the Past’, the most important memoir in this collection, which she wrote with greater detachment and supreme command of her art shortly before her death. Readers will be struck by the extent to which she drew on these early experiences for her novels, as she tells how she exorcised the obsessive presence of her mother by writing To the Lighthouse. The last three papers were composed to be read to the Memoir Club, a postwar regrouping of Bloomsbury, which exacted absolute candour of its members. Virginia Woolf’s contributions were not only bold but also original and amusing. She describes George Duckworth’s passionate efforts to launch the Stephen girls; gives her own version of ‘Old Bloomsbury’; and, with wit and some malice, reflects on her connections with titled society.


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I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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  • I have to agree with you about new books. But even more, about libraries. Here in Columbus, we have one of the best libraries in the country and I feel so, so lucky. I’m probably at the library 4 times a week. I’m stopping by later this morning, and every time I see a book I want to read, I just click on the library button and reserve it.
    When I’m buying a new book, I feel so much pressure to try to choose the right one because I am limited in how much I can spend. I’d much rather carry home an armload from the library.

    • Hi Paulita,

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the trouble to comment, it is much appreciated and I always enjoy ‘meeting’ new people.

      I stopped by both your blog and your author website, both of which are great. Your books sound amazing and I would like to wish you every success with your writing career.

      I was almost addicted to the library when I was a child, it was a wonderful, magical place, where I could lose myself in a world of story and fantasy. We went every Saturday afternoon as a family, as we all used to read avidly, although the children had their own separate library and I can always remember longing for the time when I could be let loose in the adult library.

      I still feel the same way today, but as I now read much less frequently and more slowly, I know that reading books to a deadline just isn’t for me. If I own the books, I can sit and look at them on my shelves and decide in my own good time which order to read them in.

      Also, with more and more author and publisher requests coming to the site, I can fit my own books in around other projects, although that still doesn’t see me gaze with less longing at the library, every time I walk past!! Getting me to walk past anywhere that sells books, without me stopping, is a feat that my husband thinks he has just about mastered???

  • I used to buy new books and still do from time to time but am more inclined to wait for the library these days, or pick up a copy in a charity shop. Mainly because there’s a limit space-wise but also I’m trying to save a bit of money.

    I’m actually doing a charity shop run tomorrow with my daughter. The SCOPE shop in her little part of Exeter is wonderful for books so, as we’ve both been very good of late, we’re going on a raid tomorrow. I’m hoping to find something by Trollope.

    Funnily enough I’ve just downloaded a book of essays by Virginia Woolf to my Kindle. I’ve still to be converted to her novels. I read one – To the Lighthouse – and wasn’t mad about it to be honest. Hoping to like her essays a bit more.

    Lovely post.

    • Hi Cath,

      I love going into a town or city and doing a charity shop run, a bit like coals to Newcastle as I spend most of my life volunteering in one, but oh! so addictive and such good fun!!

      I think that we are just about at our limit space wise, although I did manage to sneak a couple more books in yesterday that were just too good a bargain to miss.

      I would buy new if it was something that I desperately wanted to read, but nothing is really that urgent in the scheme of how many books I have that I still haven’t read.

      I haven’t read any Virginia Woolf myself, although as they are mostly free to download on Kindle, I guess I could soon rectify that. Having read snippets of her autobiography and several biographies, it would seem that she was a very troubled person, whose problems became worse the older she got. Her words about second hand books though were very astute and just resonated with me.

      When you say Trollope, are we talking Anthony or Joanna? If it is the latter, we have just recently had every book she has written to date, donated as a job lot. I couldn’t put them all out for sale at once, or they would have completely filled one of our bookshelves. I have a couple of hers in my TBR pile, but haven’t read any of them as yet.

      Have a great day tomorrow, I hope that the weather is a bit better by then, it’s supposed to be!!!

      • ‘Anthony’ Trollope. I’ve just started to read his books and finding them an absolute delight. Quiet wordy, as would be expected of a Victorian writer, but wonderful characters and situations.

        Yes I think Woolf was very troubled. Susan Hill mentions her in Howard’s End is on the Landing which I’m rereading, and she says that she was very insecure about her writing and worried endlessly about reviews and so on.

        Yes, the weather is meant to be a bit better tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

        • Hi Cath,

          Anthony Trollope is another of the classical authors that I am quite keen to read, again as many of his books are available as free downloads on the ‘kindle’, it is just down to me to make the time to read them.

          I wish that I had been scheduled to read more of the classical authors when I was at school, as I think it would probably have given me a good grounding and interest in them for later in life.

          Many of the classical authors seem to have had either very troubled childhoods, or disturbed adult lives, I wonder if this comes across in their writing? Trollope seems to have had some very unhappy experiences early on in his life.

          Enjoy the time with your daughter and I hope that you have a successful bargain hunting day.

  • Diane@BibliophileBytheSea says:
    August 18, 2011 at 11:57 am • Edit

    “A couple thousand books”?? yikes, I thought I was bad with 650+++. We do not have many “charity shops”, as you call then around here, but we do have a couple of used bookstore. I just love browsing –you never know what you’ll find.

    • Hi Diane,

      If Florida is anything to go by, in the US you seem to have out of town thrift warehouses, rather than shop fronts in towns and cities?

      Over here, each individual charity has its own store, often one in every town, so if you multiply that up, even the smallest of market towns will have 6 maybe 7 different charity shops. They tend to work out much less expensive for second hand books than traditional used bookstores and some of the eclectic mixes of titles are really amazing.

      I still keep making lists of books that have been recommended to me and those which I have discovered myself and would love to read, when in reality, I shall never get around to finishing the collection of titles I already have, especially as there is now a steady stream of authors and publishers contacting me for reviews.

  • I’m okay with both new and second hand books. The good thing about second hand is as you said, you can find some really good gems. But I also the like the smell of new books and the shiny new pages 🙂

    Love the quotes.

    • Hi Violet,

      I never thought about that, but I also love the smell of new books and the crisp feel of the new pages.

      It is really annoying however, when you go into a bookstore and find that what are being sold as new books and, in the case of the larger ‘coffee table’ illustrated books, often very expensive books, all bent up, with open and creased pages, where they have been looked at so many times.

      I am not really sure what the answer is, but that is another reason for not buying new, although you don’t really get the problem with online purchasing. That’s not a good strategy for survival of the independent bookshops though, so scrub that last thought…..

  • Have you ever used any book swapping websites? I’ve sent a couple of books on BookCrossing.com (you can see where your books have travelled to once you’ve “set them free”). There’s a few other websites out there that look useful too… All it costs is the postage (so its best to stick to the UK!).

    • Hi Nikki,

      I did join up to BookCrossing a few months back, but have never used it. I can’t even remember what put me off now.

      Readit Swapit seems to be pretty popular at the moment as well.

      I have actually just used the blog, got chatting to someone and have ended up by swapping a couple of books that way, again all it costs is the postage.

      Generally I swap books with family and friends until they have done the rounds, then they usually end up in the charity shop, or on a public bookshelf somewhere.

      I can’t bear the thought of thowing a book away, so I have to leave it somewhere, so that disposing of a too well read book is someone else’s resposibility!!

      If I ever blog about a book that takes your fancy, just sing out and I will quite willingly ship it to you.

      Many of my reviews at the moment do tend to be author/publisher requests, so those are generally sent electronically, which makes sharing a bit more difficult with copywrite issues.

Written by Yvonne