I love shopping. This is hardly a surprise to anyone, I guess. Shoes, handbags, homewares – all passions of mine. As a kid, looking at laptops and desktop computers was so exciting because our very first computer was five years old when we bought it second hand (and it blew up roughly four years later). Mobile phones are another thing that can occupy me for a little while – there are so many choices, touchscreen, flip-open, camera specs… it also reminds me that I really need a new phone.
But one thing I love beyond anything else are second-hand bookshops. Even as a child – there was an amazing one called Pig’s Wings in Prahan, Melbourne when I was roughly ten years old. It was incredible – beautiful old books, new books in great condition, squishy chairs to sit and read in, and lovely old-fashioned ladders to reach the higher-up books. The owner in the early years was the sweetest old lady who kept her dog in the store with her, and it just added to the magic of the store. I can’t tell you off the top of my head what I bought that first time, but on one of my return trips (after it was passed on to a new owner, sadly) I purchased a beautiful old copy of What Katy Did At School by Susan Coolridge out of my own money.
Now I live outside of Sydney and I’ve become a regular patron of another amazing second-hand bookshop – we’re talking books piled two-deep on shelves that stretch to the ceiling, on tables and and in boxes dotted around roughly four rooms. You need something to read waiting for a doctor’s appointment? Or a book on Joan of Arc, a catalogue on 1950s shock-artists? Everything is there. I’m seriously holding my breath that one day I’ll find some old Sailor Moon manga in there.
Anyway, Mum and I went in there the other day; my mother is studyin millinery at TAFE and needed some hat books. I, of course, was left unsupervised in the fiction section, which is a terribly dangerous thing to do – especially since I’d leant Mum the last of my cash earlier in the day.
Mum found two books she liked. I found six – well, seven, but one of them I picked up for my sister. The most expensive was ten dollars, having been released last week and is retailing for more than thirty dollars(!). The rest were four and five dollars. There is nothing sweeter than paying five dollars for a twenty-dollar book. And I’ve found some amazing stuff in there – a 1920s copy of Pride and Prejudice from a Sydney boarding school that is roughly the size of my hand, and the 1940s illustrated copy of The Importance of Being Ernest.
I’ve already finished the first book I got – The Dressmaker by Posie Graeme-Evans, which was a very sweet story and despite a tendency towards getting caught up in the drama and some purple-prose, it was quite enjoyable and much better than her previous books, The Innocent Trilogy.
Other than the new books, the reason I brought this up is because my mother and I are getting ready for a garage sale, and I have a box that I’m putting my stuff in and so far I’ve added a lot of bad books (ones that are disturbing or I know that I’ll never read again) and I honestly feel guilty that I’m parting with them. I’ve never ‘disposed’ of a book before – which is half the reason that my bookcases are full to bursting point – but these are books that leave me cold, whether it’s because they are so disturbing that even seeing the cover makes my skin crawl or because they’re just not my kind of story.
I know I can spend the money I earn on new books, but I look at them and think ‘maybe I should given them a second go…’ And it’s thinking that way that has lead to my parents storage unit filled up with more than eight boxes of my books, plus the stash in the shed. Maybe I should sell them and use my money to build myself a proper library?