The mild anarchy of piles of second-hand books
Who needs them in the age of online warehouses that can get you any book you want within a day? But it's because they're 'non-essential' that they're so enjoyable. There are books you don't know you want and you won't know you want them until they're standing on a shelf in front of you. I've bought cheap books I'd never heard of because they had a funny title, or attractive illustrations, or a touching inscription in the front - just on the off-chance, regardless of whether they looked any good or not. I'd never have sought it out online; I'd never have thought about it again if I hadn't chanced to unearth a copy, half falling apart, from a precarious mountain of other books in a corner of the bookshop. Part of the pleasure of second-hand books is the charm of knowing you have something which has lived in someone else's house, occupied a space in another person's life and memory. Often the girls have written in their books, so I can tell they read them. There's something to value about a completely unmediated and uncurated encounter with old books: a chance to access for yourself the raw material of history.