Since I work in a bookshop, I try to buy as many of my books from my store as I can, not only because I get discount, but because I like supporting independent booksellers. However, some books that I want are not available to order in Australia, so I have to look elsewhere. I ordered some books from Abebooks, a secondhand and rare books website, books that are on the ‘1001 Children’s Books I Must Read Before I Grow Up’ and they arrived today. I love getting parcels in the mail- it feels like a present (you often forget, you see, that you have paid for it a few weeks ago so it feels like a gift).
I love getting a brand new book, with a perfect spine and an uncurled cover, but there is also something nice about getting secondhand books – the books look like they have been loved. I not only love secondhand books read by other people, but also books that have been read and reread by myself so they are in a rather tattered condition. Cornelia Funke wrote in her children’s novel Inkheart:
“Isn’t it odd how much fatter a book gets when you’ve read it several times?” Mo had said…”As if something were left between the pages every time you read it. Feelings, thoughts, sounds, smells…and then, when you look at the book again many years later, you find yourself there, too, a slightly younger self, slightly different, as if the book had preserved you like a pressed flower…both strange and familiar.”
I agree with this. My fourth and fifth books of the Harry Potter series are falling apart (both of the covers have fallen off, but that’s not my fault – my sister dropped both, on seperate occasions, in exactly the same spot on the same road, breaking the covers off). Despite their battered appearance, I can’t bring myself to replace them. Their worn-ness is part of the reading experience now.
I like to think that, if books take on a part of yourself, that when I read my secondhand books that have arrived in the mail, I will not only read the book, but absorb something of the previous owners as well.