It’s quick and convenient to buy old books online, but it’s not always the best, or even the most enjoyable way. Here’s five good reasons to make a plan, look away from the screen, (that's right, the one you are looking at right now!) go out, and look for yourself.
1) Looking for used books in a shop is far more pleasing and satisfying than looking on line; you go out, you talk to people, you see new things. You have unplanned interactions, and stuff just happens!
2) You can get expert advice that is impossible to find on the net; where to look, what to look for, other books you might be interested in.
3) Even if you come away with nothing, there’s always next time; A visit to a used bookshop is always enjoyable, and never time wasted.
4) Finding an old book on the shelves, handling it, reading a sample to see if you like it and choosing whether to buy the book is a personal, not an anonymous thing.
5) You’ll find something you just didn’t know existed. You will discover books, authors and subjects that would never occur to you in a month of internet browsing Sundays. I’ve found some amazing books; below are some of them.
The Lost villages of Britain by Richard Muir.
The author’s name leapt out at me from the shelves because it’s the same name as a solicitor (now retired) I once had after a road accident. Richard Muir the solicitor later told me that he had mistakenly been sent emails meant for Richard Muir the author, and so they’d been in touch with each other.
I had no idea there were books on this subject, but this is just my sort of thing; I know of at least half a dozen deserted villages within a few miles of my house:
“By now it will be clear that lost villages are remarkably numerous. Few British readers are likely to be living more than four miles from the site of a deserted setttlement—even if has been overrun by the suberbs of an upstart metropolis”
Piece of Cake by Geoff Taylor
One of those world War 2 memoirs I like to read. Many were written after the war, and sometimes I’ll find one I like. Shown in the photo with another one; Dare to be Free by W.B. Thomas, and Castle for Rent by John DeChancie. I already had a couple of books by DeChancie, but I hadn't heard of this one. I found these three while on holiday in a great used book shop on the Isle of Wight. There's a post on Piece of Cake here. (The last three links are all to posts on this blog)
My Way With the Miniature by Lancelot Vining
One of my first books on photography was My Way With a Camera, by Victor Blackman. (1973)
He was a press photographer for the Daily Express, and named his book after Lancelot’s Vining’s book on photography with 35mm cameras, which were known as miniature cameras when Lancelot Vining's book was published in 1941. Vining was a photographer for the Daily Mirror.
This all meant that I knew the book existed, but in those pre-internet days I never expected to find it. I had no idea what it even looked like, but I found it one day while browsing the photography section of Weatherheads book shop (now gone) in Kingsbury Square, Aylesbury.
I saw part of the intricately drawn front cover of this book; it stuck out further than all the other books on the shelf. I pulled it out to see what it was. It’s a book of photographs of people and places in Norway, published in 1906. It says on the title page:
BILLEDER FRA VORT LANDS VAKRESTE
TURIST - TRAKTER
MITTET & CO., KUNSTFORLAG
PICTURES FROM OUR COUNTRY'S MOST BEAUTIFUL
is the best translation I can find, I'm afraid.
Of course, most shops are online and it's good to do a bit of research before you go. Here's a list of bookshops to start you off. Have you ever found any unexpected treasures in a used book shop?