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The library.

I work in a bookshop. I love books. I covet books. I buy books. I have two huge bookcases in my lounge stuffed with the very best of my books. I read book reviews and think, hmmm, that one sounds great, I’d love to read it. I put stock out at work and store interesting titles and my favourite authors in the staff reservations cupboard until one day when I can afford them. This month there are at least 7 titles that I really want to read, but, sad face, I have no money.
At my old book shop we were allowed to borrow the books that we wanted to. The manager felt that as long as they were returned in pristine condition that it was fine for us to do this. He liked the fact that we had in depth knowledge of our stock. I would borrow the hardback books and read them ultra carefully, nobody would ever be able to tell that I had read it. The bookshop I now work in doesn’t allow this practice, and I really understand why. As a buyer I would be beyond furious to know that someone had already opened my book. I like uncracked spines and clean pages and general newness. That is why i loathe and detest library books. they feel slightly sticky, they lack the whoo heady glory of a brand new publication, and other people have eeew, touched them.
When I was young I swear I found dried spunk on the pages of a sex scene. This scarred me.
Now, I am poor. And I have children who I wish to encourage to read. I kept on buying then ace kids book from work, but even with a staff discount providing enough books for my twins is too costly. So in summer we signed up to our local village library, and the boys did the Reading Mission. I have been going back and swapping 4 books every couple of weeks. This week for the first time I stood there and pondered on the fact that there are adult books too. Suddenly a light bulb went off in my head;

*I could read books for free*

I could just borrow books. it was as if the concept of a library had previously escaped me. What a wonderful and amazing thing. One can borrow books to read. And not pay. Amazing.

So I duly scoured the shelves for books I want. I am after particularly “A lover of unreason” the new biography of Assia Wevil (Ted Hughes second wife), I want to read Margaret Atwood’s latest collection of stories, Kate Atkinson’s new one “One good turn”, Mark Haddon’s “A spot of bother”, one by a new author, and I can’t remember her name right now, but I’d know it if I saw it!, the new Les Murray “The biplane houses”, and I also want Melissa Banks “The wonder spot.”
I looked for all of these, and found none. So I then looked at every book on each fiction/biography and poetry shelf. This didn’t actually take very long. There aren’t that many books there. I found “Prep” by Curtis Sittenfeld, and yes, I have looked at that before and thought I wouldn’t mind reading it. And I found a very trashy read; “Paula, Michael and Bob” all about Paula Yates. That’s it. That’s when the joy faded and I realised that I could read any number of historical romances but the only current new literary fiction hardback available was “The vanishing of Esme Lennox” by Maggie O’farrell, and no offence to Ms O’Farrell, I just am not terribly keen on her writing. There were 3 books in the poetry section. 3!!! ; The collected works of Ted Hughes, Old Possums cat doo dah, and a battered anthology.

Sigh.

Still, I am enjoying the Paula Yates one. Only I have to keep washing my hands with anti bac soap…

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3 responses »

  1. I absolutely can’t STAND second hand books…i imagine flakes of the previous owners skin flying down my throat the second i open them to look, and they always seem damp, and thusly enlarged and engorged in a way that books shouldn’t be…like when you take a book, all new and pristine, down to a caravan in cornwall, and then when you wake up the next morning it’s three times the size, damp moistened and primed for the growth of mushrooms.MA

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  2. I know a good many former employees of the very chain you work for. Most of them seem to have left because it got more difficult to steal vast amounts of books. I’m very funny about second hand books too, but I like libraries. Previously used reference books are OK, but I prefer my fiction to be spanking new.

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  3. Oh heavens, I love your blog! I’m sorry I’ve never noticed your link in your Life Itself sig before.Now, you have to think about a library in a very different way than a book shop. I don’t like to buy books, because I want to be reading constantly and have other places to use the money. So I visit libraries a lot and I simply look at what’s there, rather than having any particular idea of what I’m after. I end up trying things I might never have considered by reading the reviews, and not just the new stuff that’s all glossily displayed in a 3 for 2 in Waterstone’s. In fact, knowing you don’t have to pay for the experience will make you much more free in your choices.Only Jon Ronson and Mil Millington are guaranteed to be bought new on the day of release and aside from that if there’s something I really want I put it in my Amazon wish list and stare a it for about a year until someone’s selling it for 5p in Marketplace. Actually my reading habits are not good for the publishing industry. Nor for bookshops. I buy books at the supermarket, too. I do feel guilty sometimes, but who buys something at full price when they don’t have to?You could use Amazon Marketplace, you know, but I suppose that still doesn’t help you with the cleanliness thing.

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