October 10, 2010 - 11:15 AM
Any list of British authors will reveal some of the greatest names in literature, their influence extending well beyond the English-speaking world and crossing cultural borders. William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Lewis Carroll, Robert Louis Stevenson, Thomas Hardy, Agatha Christie, George Orwell, J. R. R. Tolkien, Ian Fleming and J. K. Rowling are just a handful of significant British authors. With such a seemingly infinite list of writers to get to know, one of the most economical ways to stock your home library with works by these literary greats is the acquisition of second hand books.
With the multitude of second hand bookshops that abound within the UK, finding exactly what you are looking for should be relatively easy. An entire culture has sprung up around these shops, which now frequently provide coffee and snacks, or if you time it just right, a glass of wine. The Internet is an excellent source of listings for second hand bookshops all over the UK and while many stores now also boast web-based catalogues, for a truly authentic experience, nothing beats the hands-on browsing amidst shelves crammed with beloved favorites.
More than serving merely as a repository for someone else’s unwanted second hand books UK bookshops can prove to be a true treasure trove of hard-to-find or out-of-print books to which modern new bookshops simply do not have access. Within the community, they also serve as a sort of recycling center, keeping unwanted books in circulation and out of landfills, with the added bonus of cash in exchange. They also provide a venue for meeting like-minded people and some stores host reading groups.
While some bookshops will offer a general jumble of books, others prefer to specialize. Some may carry predominantly children’s titles; others provide picture books, rare or limited editions, beautiful leather bound volumes or may focus on a specific genre, such as art or travel or the occult. Westwood Books in Sedbergh, Cambria, for example, carries the largest collection of “-ologies,” particularly psychology. With over 70,000 titles to choose from, expect to browse for several hours if this is an area of interest. The proprietors thoughtfully provide coffee and couches to ensure your comfort.
For afternoon browsing, try award-winning Wenlock Books in Much Wenlock, Shropshire, and stay for afternoon tea. The Haunted Bookshop in Cambridge specializes in illustrated volumes and collectible children’s books. Derbyshire is home to Scriveners in Buxton, which contains 30,000 volumes for your perusal, while in Cromford, Scarthin Books sports 13 crammed rooms and an organic café. Gresham Books in Crewkerne, Somerset, specializes in early art, cooking, fashion and textiles and Northumberland’s Barter Books in Alnwick Station, has been hailed as one of Britain’s top second hand bookstores. Drop the children off at the playroom and get down to some serious browsing with a cup of coffee in front of an open fire.
For a literary-themed holiday, consider planning a tour of second hand bookshops in the birthplaces of some of your favorite authors. Let Oscar Wilde whisk you away to Dublin, before J. M. Barrie and Robert Louis Stevenson receive you in Scotland. Jane Austen and Charles Dickens will find you headed for Hampshire, while Cheshire will present the birthplace of Lewis Carroll, and its namesake, the Cheshire cat. Agatha Christie will see you touring to Torque in Devon, while Roald Dahl will have you waltzing to Wales. Back at home, instead of unpacking touristy trinkets, you will arrange a collection of favorite old books or curious new finds.
In our busy lives, second hand books can be a gentle reminder to slow down and reminisce. The second hand bookshop uk has become a purveyor of the past, allowing us to reclaim and revisit past pleasures. Whilst many children today may not know the names of various authors, few will not be familiar with stories such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or characters like Peter Pan or Alice, proving once again that great literature, much like the institution of the second hand bookshop, stands the test of time.