Monday, July 13, 2015

Why I have this thing for previously owned books

I feel a certain romanticism every time I have an old book in my hands, a book I've acquired from a used bookstore. I keep thinking of the person who first bought it, his fingers lovingly caressing its pages, making those creases in its spine, and carrying it in his bag for a few days. I imagine him being moved after turning the last page. I picture a certain loneliness as he puts that book in his shelf after having read it.

Of course, there is also the more prosaic biological aspect to reading something pre-owned. Think of bodily fluids. Think of that original owner sneezing into the pages. Think of him eating something fried while reading and getting grease on the book's pages. Think of sweat, snot, and seminal fluid. And then think of getting that into your own hands as you open the book. That also holds a special fascination for me.
One lazy post-breakfast Saturday morning, at R's
I've noticed that I finish at least one book every time I spend the night here.
Somehow, I can't bear to think that he parted with this book willingly. Perhaps he got his bag stolen. Or maybe someone broke into his house and stole some, ummm, books. Or could it be that he left that book on the train or the bus? Or probably he was reading at a cafe or restaurant when he was distracted by seeing an old friend at another table? He could've dropped the book amidst all those unplanned happy reunions, yes?

Oh, but again, I'm romanticizing everything. For all I know, he was just strapped for cash and sold all the books that he didn't like from his shelf. Yes, that's the most reasonable and realistic assumption, I think. It's all about economics, and how to make the most of your money. And speaking of pragmatism, isn't economics the reason why we buy previously loved books? Books are costly, but at least used ones are less so.
Two months ago, these were the books at my bedside.
All bought from the bargain bin.
None of them costs more than a dollar each.
Some of the books of years past have interesting covers; they're are a joy to collect. Just look at old sci-fi paperbacks. Oy, so beautifully tacky! And, several years ago, I believe that people actually painted by hand to come up with book cover designs. I don't do Photoshop, so I can't really compare the time and effort of past and present cover designers. Besides, being on Instagram and Facebook, I know that photo filters are essential. We can't have people seeing our pores!

I do love a book with a good cover. Plus points if it has texture, keyholes, and embellishments. A bad book cover is a deal breaker. Unless you're McEwan, Rushdie, or Tartt, then there's really no excuse to have an uninteresting book cover. (My life is uninteresting enough, thank you!) I find that books published several years ago do have character because of their covers. I would love to get that character in my shelf.
Saw these at a used bookstore last weekend.
Just look at those beautiful artworks!
And their conditions aren't bad either.
There's this interesting imprint from Little, Brown that I collect, which I find only in used bookstores. It's the Virago Modern Classics, which feature women writers. I'm not really sure if it has been discontinued as I don't see them in bookshops anymore. I love Virago. They publish little-known works from authors such as Elizabeth von Arnim, Pat Barker, Edith Wharton, Angela Carter, Willa Cather, and Molly Keane.

I think this is another allure of previously owned books—reading a novel that's long been out of print. We couldn't care less that these books have yellowed pages, or if the books have damaged spines, or if they have that funky smell that old books usually emit. What is important is the story within their pages, yes? And I'm just thankful that these books have found their way to me.
My small but growing Virago Modern Classics collection
Always a "must buy" every time I see one at a used bookstore.

9 comments:

Monique said...

I love pre-loved books, too! That's why it sucks that the Book Sale branch at Robinsons Ermita, which is close to where I live (and work), has closed shop last year. *creys*

Bodily fluids? Sweat perhaps, but seminal fluid, erm. No thanks. HAHA!

Peter S. said...

Hi, Monique! Oh, isn't there another branch in Remedios, at the other side of Taft? Has it closed already too? I love that branch because it's quite big.

jokobunny said...

i will always have fond memories of browsing through the very dusty 2nd floors of the used bookstores in the UP shopping center. :) allergic ako sa dust, pero tiis lang para makabasa. hehe!

Peter S. said...

Hello, jokobunny! I know that place! But for some strange reason, I can't recall visiting it often during my college years in UP. I think I visited it just once! Horrors!

Jeane said...

I do love the smell of old books. I try not to think of what things previous readers might have sneezed or spilled on them, though. Hopefully the germs have all died by the time a book reached me! (Isn't that why some people don't use public libraries? they're afraid of all the germs on the books)

Peter S. said...

Hello, Jeane! Oh, makes sense! One can't be too safe around germs, yes?

People should find a way to bottle the smell of old books and sell it!

Tracie Nelson said...

I grew up Laura Ingalls Wilder! Seeing those books brings back memories! I wanted to live during that time (of course, I was unaware that T.V., radio, and telephones back then.).

Jeane said...

Hey I heard of that being done, can't recall where I saw it though (another blogger in my feed). Only true bibliophiles would go for that kind of perfume, though!

Peter S. said...

Hello, Tracie! It would've been wonderful living in that time, no? Of course, we'd miss the Internet. Hehehehehe.

Hi, Jeane! Really? I will Google!