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Charity shops have the delightful ability to make me happy. They stand for community wellbeing and they offer the opportunity to discover new treasures. My selfish enjoyment of charity shops is rooted in the potential for unexpected literary finds. I have been introduced to many a new author through the packed shelves of small and unassuming charity shops.
Leopold Broom (@LeopoldBroom on Twitter) feels the same way. He wrote a nice little piece on Literati Pulp that echoed my sentiments. I am sure there are many others that have written on the topic as well.
One thought I picked out from Leopold’s article:
“If you’re looking for a specific title, don’t even bother walking through the door.”
Agreed! Charity shops are rarely designed to offer a comprehensive selection. In fact, some charity shops I particularly enjoy visiting only have a couple of shelves dedicated to classic literature, but you never know what might turn up. They rotate stock fairly regularly (important!) so that keeps me coming back for more.
I recall one of my earlier discoveries where I was introduced to Graham Greene. I hadn’t heard of him before, but I was drawn to the spine. The cover didn’t offend (a glass of gin) and the blurb appealed. It ticked my superficial checklist of literary criteria so I bought it. It then sat on my bookshelf unread for six months.
When I finally read it, I was struck. It had a poignancy that resonated with me. I’m sure Graham Greene isn’t for everybody, but no author is. Six months later and I now own fourteen of his books and I’ve read eight of them. This demonstrates perfectly why I love second-hand bookshops and the unexpected discoveries that they hide within. They can reveal a whole new river of discovery.
(The novel was “The Heart of the Matter” in case you’re interested.)
I think my adoration of charity shops is also rooted in my desire to rebel against the soulless technology that surrounds me on a daily basis. I have spent a decade working with the web and it gets a little tiring. All those bits and bytes, zeros and ones, pixels and sprites! I long for something real. Something genuine. Something unpretentious.
So I thank the charity shops out there. I salute you for your work to humanity as well as literary discovery.