My World of Books | 2236


Amazon clear cut the hunting grounds and e-Bay destroyed the sport. But the hunt, and thrill of the chase still remains.

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My World of Books

I got a new book this week, it arrived from over the sea. 

I ordered it on ebay ages ago and it took 2 months to arrive. Not that I minded. It was the same price with shipping as the paperback second hand in the UK. I just had to wait for it. Opening the package the other morning and holding the poet Jane Hirshfield’s Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry in my hand I was struck by a notion. There is now one more copy of this hardback in the UK, than there was a week ago. And one less copy in America. It’s not like it’s ever going to get shipped back there. The arrangement of objects around the globe has forever shifted. It’s not even truly my copy. it was someone else’s before, and when my stewardship of it reaches its inevitable end it will be someone else’s again. 

Over the course of my life, I’ve had several love affairs with second hand bookshops. Now all sadly departed. Killed by amazon and/or rising rents. Charity shops still have preloved pages. It’s just unfortunate that most are filled with effluvia from the mid 2000’s paperback boom. Proudly sporting Richard and Judy book club stickers or best beach reads of 2006.

My favourite second hand bookshop is also my first. The Albion Bookshop in Broadstairs.

It was a β€˜proper’ book shop. Haphazard piles of books strewn about the floor. Hazardous piles on top of others, two or three rows deep. The shop was organised by gesture rather than theme. Scifi roughly over there, occult books and conspiracies upstairs over by the window. It was a rough approximation. The shop had a sort of geological feel. Strata of acquisitions laid down over years. Ready to be excavated by any intrepid explorer. I spent hours in that shop, the owner chain smoking downstairs, radio 4 chattering away in the corner. 

On my knees digging my way through piles. Gems unearthed. Like secrets of the hollow earth. Secret bases and UFO photography. I first encounter Leary up there, under the window by the stairs.

A quick check every other week on a lunch break. Any new Star Wars? Any Pratchett? I felt an abstract connection to the people who were selling their books into the store. There were in fact other people like me out there. Somewhere in my own home town. 

In the very early 90’s, my grandpa and grandma used to give me 50p a week pocket money. I’d save it up all month and buy a new Roald Dahl book. Eventually we skipped the pretence and once a month they would drive me to Ramsgate WHSmiths. I still remember the day I bought Esio Trot. Getting home and marking a line through its name on a list carefully copied by hand from the front of another Dahl book. Already I had become a collector. 

Broadstairs library was another place for books. My mum took me every week. In primary school I remember we took a trip to learn how the library worked. The librarian asked who had read a lot of books. Someone put their hand up, they had borrowed 30. My hand went up and I said do me. I had over a hundred to my name and there were gasps from around the class. I felt proud but also like a nerd.

I got a little older and Brian Jaques’ Redwall series sucked me in at primary school. Robin Jarvis introduced me to occultism and horror, Alan Gardner the English weird. As a tween the 100’s of Star Wars books written for nerds keeping the franchise on life support before 1999. I’ve read them all. 

The Second Hand Albion bookshop kept me sane as a teenager. I wanted to collect and I wanted to read. I wanted to read everything. All the books. Raymond E Feist became my friend Martin’s and I’s project, we found them and read them. Tolkien and all of Christopher Tolkien’s history of middle earth books? I found them and I read them all. 

Moving to London opened a whole new world of books. Waterstones, Foyals, Borders

And of course the university library. I had a library next door, and I did not waste it. I read stuff that had absolutely nothing to do with my course obviously. Cervantes, the Beats. Crowley and The Dice Man.

After university I worked WITH books. First as a Christmas temp then as supervisor. With a 90 min community each way, my life became books on buses. The employee lending library rules were very generous. I’d burn through 4 or 5 books a week. Ursula K. Le Guin, Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time. Robin Hobb and Brian Herbert’s Dune. It was an intense time. I read the Russians, Austin, Wood House, Greene, non fiction, history. Whatever. 

It was pre-smartphones, the internet lived in a grey box in my housemates room. I had a choice: pay attention to the idiot box in the corner, or read. 

Pulling a rare book out of its jiffy bag this week brought all this to mind. I’m sure some of you may know this feeling too. The thrill of the collection. Amazon clear cut the hunting grounds and e-Bay destroyed the sport. But the hunt, and the chase for the book. Still remains.

And yet, as I held the book in my hand I realise again a books eternal lesson.

It’s not the hunt that brings the pleasure. The pleasure is in the reading.


The script above is the original script I wrote for the episode. It may differ from what ended up in the episode in the edit.

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