I visited the charity shop earlier in the week and was thrilled to find Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies, the second in the Wolf Hall trilogy, on the shelves overflowing with pre-loved books.
I read the novel years ago, and very rarely re-read a book (especially one the length of Mantel’s tomes), but I wanted to round out the trilogy on my bookshelves.
Lately, I’ve found that it’s something I’ve done often. I scour charity shops to find books that I’ve loved but haven’t owned – I might have borrowed the book from someone, read it on my kindle or listened to it on audiobook.
I was thrilled to find Bring Up the Bodies, and others I have found have included Anna Funder’s All That I Am and Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend and I’m still looking for Melissa Lucashenko’s Too Much Lip and Hannah Kent’s The Good People.
There are a few reasons why I love collecting books I’ve read and loved for my bookcases:
- The first is that I like to be reminded of these books. I like to see all of the novels that I have read and that have been a source of joy in my life – sometimes I just scan the bookshelves for those little reminders of the characters and stories I remember so fondly. It is the little spark of joy that Marie Kondo wrote about, and a bit like looking back at old photos of when my children were younger. Each book holds the memory of an emotion, and a kind of nostalgia.
- Another reason is that I can’t wait until my children and nieces and nephews can explore the adult section of my bookcase, and find a similar joy. It might be quite some time coming, but I know they will eventually be curious about the books, and start to browse themselves.
I want them to be able to pluck One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, The Painted Veil by Somerset Maugham or We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver off the shelves and discover the secrets within.
To some degree, that has already begun. My 10-year-old has read The Best-Kept Secret by Emily Rodda – a book inscribed with words from my own grandmother decades ago. I’m looking forward to introducing him to The Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, I Came Back to Show You I Could Fly by Robyn Klein and Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden.
- The third reason I love to have all of my favourite books on my bookshelves, even if I never end up reading them again, is that I love it when my friends or family ask me for a recommendation. They’ve barely finished the sentence before I’m scouring the shelves, plucking out one book, reconsidering, choosing another, and repeating the cycle time and time again.
Recently, a friend asked me for some books for her grandmother, who is aged in her 90s. I know that this woman is not the kind to suffer fools, so I picked out some prizewinning or widely loved books that I hope she’ll enjoy – Brooklyn by Colm Toibin, Commonwealth by Ann Patchett and The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah.
The lockdowns have been a boon for my informal book borrowing service, and I’ve enjoyed seeing my books leave my shelves and return, looking a little bit more worn and, hopefully, a little bit more loved.
One of the great joys of reading is the opportunity to share the experience and my bookshelf provides me with the opportunity to spread the book love.
So, I’m off to the charity shop to see what familiar treasures I can find.