It all starts the second you enter the bookshop. Thousands and thousands of books welcome you with their shiny, new covers, special re-this and re-that editions and almost irresistible prices. However, in the marketing of art, the screaming of promotional slogans and the smell of not so freshly made Starbucks coffee can easily disturb the intimate search for the lifelong friend. So I advice you to leave and enter once again. But this time let’s enter the other bookshop, the one on the corner, next to some tobacco shop that hasn’t seen a customer for years now. Let’s enter the second-hand bookshop.
You will be greeted by the strong and sublime scent of the past and the subtle shivering of Victorian paper. The man sitting resembling a wise tree will look at you with a humble interest allowing you to indulge yourself in this magical literary orphanage. But remember to be gentle, as here every book comes with its own story of past owners and with mili grains of dust from places it was read at. With a help of your touch, the book will tell you its story; with a help of your eyes, it will tell you the story it told all of its owners. But for an unskilled eye and unprepared hand the picking of the book is a process much more difficult than for those familiar with the second-hand bookshop. With their indistinctive covers hiding in the dark corners of the seemingly chaotic labyrinth, the books seem determined to guard their secrets from the inexperienced reader, who already confused, unwillingly takes the risk of walking further into the dimness of what seem to be the oldest bookshelves in the world. How can he possibly pick a book without losing his sanity?
Because de gustibus non est disputandum (“In matters of taste, there can be no disputes”), I will not provide you with the list of top thousand books that you have to pick before you go mad. Instead, I encourage you to experiment.
I sold my soul to literature ten years ago and I still remember the moment I entered school library aged fifteen looking for the first real book to steal my heart. I too was confused by the amount of back then still meaningless names and similar titles of covers that didn’t really show anything and plot summaries that reviewed the intellectual content, but failed to interest me in the story itself. I picked my book randomly and the choice I made was bad. I struggled with every sentence I read and of course, I didn’t finish it. And yet, I returned to the library week later to pick another book. This time I knew to stay away from the author I previously chose, and the second one I borrowed turned out to be much more interesting. The third book I took home changed my life completely. It still is my favourite book of all times and the most precious thing I own.
So experiment! Take any books, any amount and just read all of them at once! Indulge yourself in the written word and feel passionate about what you read! Hate, love, cry and laugh- let the book provoke every single emotion that a human being can experience. And next time you enter the bookshop, the book guardians will smile to you…welcoming…
Written by Amelie Carmel