Friday, 7 April 2017

5 Lessons from a Secondhand Bookshop


I’ve worked at a charity secondhand bookshop for a total of 2 years doing various things, which I have loved. I thought it would be interesting to share with you some things I’ve noticed/learned:

  1. You can always have an interesting conversation with strangers

The great thing about working in a bookshop is that I automatically have something in common with people, and books lead to all sorts of conversations with people. I talked to one guy once about his job transporting helicopter parts from country to country as a Royal Navy engineer which originally started because he was buying a P. D. James book. People are nice, especially bookish people.

  1. People don’t always treat their books like objects to be worshipped

I have seen books that have clearly been in water, books that have been bent beyond correction, books with pages stuck together with a questionable substance.

My biggest pet peeve is stickers. I see how stickers on books are useful for bookshops - the Waterstones 3 for 2 offer is a prime example. My issue comes with the stickers that then don’t get immediately removed. I genuinely have books come into the shop which have had stickers on them for a quarter of a century and it hurts because our shop policy is to remove all stickers from covers, and if they don’t come off without damaging the cover or leaving an obvious mark, we have to cull them and send them to book recycling plants.
Imagine my shock when I discovered that my boyfriend is guilty of leaving stickers on books
Side note: if you need to remove a sticker from a book and it doesn’t peel off as easily as you would like, take off what you can then remove the residue left over with a baby-wipe that’s been left to dry out a bit.

  1. There are books covering every. single. topic.

Charity bookshops in particular are fantastic for finding a book on a niche subject: a 70s graphic novel about sex education (yes, I’ve seen this), an in-depth guide to Leeds’ steam train history, or maybe a Malay dictionary from 1950 takes your fancy?

  1. Charity shops give you a good indicator of what not to buy

If I see a book come through donations/in other charity shops quite regularly, I usually take this to mean that I shouldn’t pay full price for it unless I’m really keen/know I’m going to like it/there’s a certain edition I want.

There is a (fairly) definitive list of books you will tend to find in a charity bookshop so keep your eyes peeled and your wallets happy:


This isn’t me saying these books are bad - apart from 50 Shades because I found that pretty bad - I’m saying that if you want to read these books, you can almost definitely save yourself some pennies AND help out a charity/small business by going to your local secondhand bookshop and picking up a copy from there.

  1. Charity bookshops are great for literature in other languages

If you’re a modern languages student like me, you’ll know how hard it is to get good books in your target language without either spending a fortune on shipping or actually going to a target language country. Bookshops like the one I work in solve this because we get so many donations from people from all different walks of life, which makes for some very interesting bookshelves.

Do you often go to charity bookshops? What do you like most about them? Let me know in the comments below!
Happy reading,
Zoe