If you want to travel without the hassle of booking hotel rooms, emptying your bank account and having to pack a suitcase of clothes and toiletries, all you have to do is pick up a book and lose yourself within those pages. While new books, untouched and unread by another are treasures, more valuable, some would find, are books with a previous owner or two.
The past is a place of comfort, even if it’s a past you never belonged to. In this sense, secondhand bookstores are time machines, and they are unappreciated time machines.
At bookstores, there have been many times when I would see a book I want on my bookshelf, but seeing the price, realized I can’t afford it. It’s a truly heartbreaking moment and having to leave the book behind feels like you have betrayed the world of books.
Secondhand bookstores offer you love at an affordable price. This is one of the best things about secondhand bookstores. You can buy five books for the price of one new book. If you like buying books in large amounts, secondhand bookstores are the best places for you.
However, this isn’t only about having to spend money or being too stingy to spend on books. Secondhand bookstores give you the freedom to take a chance with books. If you see a book and it looks like you would enjoy it, but you have a bad feeling about it too, you wouldn’t want to spend Rs 1,500 on the book. However, you wouldn’t mind buying that same book if you are only spending Rs 200 on it.
Due to the price of, we are limited to genres or authors. We are afraid to be reckless and buy books that we haven’t even heard of because buying new books is an investment and for those who don’t have overflowing wallets or bank accounts, even buying a single book takes hours of deciding.
Secondhand bookstores have a way of saying, “buy my books and if you don’t like them, well, you didn’t spend too much money on them.” This is music to the ears of broke book lovers.
The other and most important thing about secondhand books is that they once belonged to someone else. You find traces of the book’s previous owners and readers within the yellowed pages. Dog-eared pages, a fold marking a page, highlighted areas or notes, there are so many hints about who read the book before you.
And in some books, you find names and dates. People often write their names and the year or date of purchase. Finding these make you picture the previous owner. Some names may be familiar, some not. Either way, you can just picture them reading this very book years ago and you can’t help wondering if they had the same reactions to certain scenes as you did.
In one of the books I bought recently, there were the words, ‘To you, love me.’ It’s dated May ’03. The words have haunted me since. For one, it’s incredibly romantic and poetic. You don’t know the names and you don’t know these people. It’s just you and me and these two can be just about anyone. You don’t know their ages or sexes. You don’t know their story.
You only know that a ‘me’ gave this book to a ‘you.’ It’s possible that the book was a gift to oneself. Even this doesn’t matter.
What made this person decide to get her/himself a gift? Did they achieve something or pass an exam? Did they just feel like it?
However, the inscription is bittersweet. While it is so lovely that someone bought a book for another and left this message in it, what was it doing in a secondhand bookstore? Why did ‘you’ decide to give away this book? Had he/she already forgotten the other person?
At a secondhand bookstore you can buy one book and get two (or more) stories within that one book. There’s so much more than what the author wrote. And this is priceless. This is more than what a brand new book can give you.
Piles of books, packed shelves and open boxes. A silverfish runs around. It’s warm and the air smells of dust, paper, ink and stories. Happiness is being in a place like that. Happiness is a secondhand bookstore even if you have to abandon some of your picks.