In praise of secondhand bookshops and/or the search for the perfect book

Yesterday I was feeling out of sorts and terribly restless after a miserable Friday night so Saturday morning I was on a mission. I had to find the perfect book to keep me company. I wanted John Berger and I wanted him now, namely Here is Where We Meet: a story of Crossing Paths. I love the title. Obviously. (If this isn’t obvious see About Me).

Did my two local libraries have it? No! So off I went to Rice’s Bookshop, an institution in Newcastle, now in its 43rd year of trading. They didn’t have any of Berger’s books but I did find Rupert Brooke: Life, Death & Myth by Nigel Jones. God knows when I will get to read it as it is 461 pages long but it looks much more approachable than another biography I have of the famous poet, the man who many people considered to be the most beautiful in England.

Brooke has fascinated me for a long time and in 1997, after I read a collection of his poems, in particular his last entitled Fragment, he began to haunt my thoughts for weeks. Eventually I exorcised him by writing a long poem entitled Conversation with a Dead Poet.

Anyway, no Berger but a good book to read. Undeterred I headed off to Indigo Books further up Hunter Street. There I found a number of Berger’s but not the one I wanted. The excellent To the Wedding was there but I have read that and there were two others that didn’t interest me and were not the perfect book for a grey Autumn Day.

I  did find three possible contenders though, all short books and two authors unknown to me. The three books I bought from Indigo were another Ian McEwan,The Comfort of Strangers, one of his early ones; Waiting for Leah by Arnost Lustig, a Czech author writing about a Nazi prison camp in northern Bohemia in 1944; and The Quartet by Francois Emmanuel, a writer and psychiatrist from Belgium. One of his novels won the Prix Victor Rossel. This novel is about a sinister dossier and the links between big business and the darkest hour of Europe. Thank God for secondhand bookshops.

You will – eventually – find my reviews of all four on goodreads, the three short ones in the not too distant future. (Reviews done 31/5/12).

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8 thoughts on “In praise of secondhand bookshops and/or the search for the perfect book

  1. ‘The Long Prospect’ is the Elizabeth Harrower novel set in the industrial town of ‘Ballowra’, which, I believe, was based on Mayfield…

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    • Well you did better than me. I paid $28 for the four books but they were fairly rare and ones that I probably wouldn’t have got at the Salvos. It’s fun scaventing, isn’t it?

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  2. I bought four books in the charity shop last week and three of these four were perfect reading for the past few days recovering from a dose of ‘flu. It ws great to have whole chunks of time to sit and read – I read one book in two sittings!

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