The life and times of an experienced book-a-holic and where she buys her books for cheap

I know that this may a rather boring and well covered topic amoungst book bloggers - but despite that, I am going to throw my hat in the ring with my own post on the topic because well, sometimes I just like the sound of my own voice.

Truthfully though, I started thinking about this yesterday when I went to the library to borrow The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht. I love the title, I love the cover and I have heard great reviews of it.

This combined with the fact that I am seeing her read from this book at the Sydney Writers Festival cmoing up in a few weeks, meant that I wanted to read it as soon as possible.

So I toddled on down to the library to borrow it, only to find that about a million other people (ok, maybe a bit less than that, but not by much) had had the same great idea as me. So I am now on a waitlist as long as my arm to read the book.

Why don't I just buy it new?

Because I can't afford it. Or perhaps it's more accurate to say that whilst I probably could afford it, I have more important things I need to save my money for (like a mothers day present for example).

The reality is, I can't afford to buy new books very often because there is always something more important to spend money on.

The new books that I do buy are probably 50% from here in Australia and 50% from overseas. I know that makes me an evil reader guilty of destroying the Australian publishing industry , but hey - if the publishing industry wants to see me the book for $12.50 instead of $32.95 (like the last book I purchased from The Book Depository), then I would be happy to buy it here.

I could go to the library a lot more often I do, but I am also the sort of person who likes to keep a copy of the books that she reads. A lot of people would say, and probably correctly, that this is wasteful. It is owning things for the sake of owning things. That I am being too materialistic in prioritising owning the actual book instead of solely concentrating on the story themselves.

They may be right, but it doesn't change how I feel about it and at the moment I don't feel like changing how I feel about it... if that makes sense.

So - this leads me to the final result. I buy 80% or more of my books second hand. In fact, I love second hand books.

I love them because they affordable. I can buy books, read them and keep them without feeling too guilty. Instead of paying $30/book, I can pay $30 and get 10 books (depending on where you go of course).

Not only that - they are loved. They have had their own story that I know nothing about. They may have been overseas. They may have never left the house before. Who knows! I love the mystery and the feeling that comes with knowing that you are reading something that has had a life before it reached you.Maybe in keeping the books I am not letting them continue on their own journey, but I can be selfish like that.

So where's the best place to buy second hand books?

Well, in my humble opinion (and perhaps strangely enough) I think that it is not at second hand book shops. They are still a bit expensive in most Sydney second hand book shops, ranging around the $9 - $13 mark in my experience.

A better place is to go to Vinnies shops, or any of their ilk. Books are more like $3 each and the money goes to a good cause.

Cheaper yet, is the book fair. I once went to the last day of a book fair at the University of New South Wales, and the average price that I paid per book was 33c. No, I am not exaggerating. You bought a box for $15 and then filled it with as many books as you could. The last book fair I went to was in Balmain, and I think I paid about $5 per book on average from memory.

Plus, you get to wonder up and down all the rows of books for as long as you like. Brilliant way to start the day.

That's my two cents worth. Your turn. Ever think about where you mainly buy your books from and why? Do you value the cool, clean and crisp feel and smell of a brand new book enough to spend the money? Do you like the well worn and slightly yellowed pages of a pre-loved book? Or do you think that the library is the place for you? 

Do you think that your choice reflects what you value in a book - or is it all about the money?

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon is a beautifully written, magical story about life, love and the reader's relationship with story. 

It begins in 1945, post-Spanish civil war, with the protagonist Daniel Sempere being taken by his father to the Cemetery of Lost Books where is told to choose a book in order to keep it's spirit alive forever.

Daniel chooses a book entitled The Shadow of the Wind by Juian Carax and in doing so he unknowingly and irrevocably ties his own life to Julian's.

I know this seems to be a common refrain in my reviews of late, but I hardly feel capable of doing this book any justice.

Zafon creates these most perfect characters. He goes so deep into their inner most thoughts and intricacies that it is hard to believe that the characters are just that; characters in the story. Not only were the characters so whole, the setting was so vivid that at times I felt as though I was lost in the rambling misty streets of Barcelona with the characters.

Without getting too sappy, I think that The Shadow of the Wind is in some ways a metaphor for the ability that some stories have to touch something inside us so much that the story itself becomes a little part of ourselves.

Despite how much I enjoyed almost every aspect of this book, there were two weaknesses for me. The first is that Zafon sometimes seemed a little pleased with himself, a little too pompous, in the way that he put forward his own social commentary. I am thinking particularly of Fermin's comments on television, where I felt as though I was reading the author's opinion rather than the characters. Fermin predicts that in the future people won't be able to fart for themselves because of the prevalence of television, and that we (people) won't die of the bomb but of banality. This felt to me to be a lot more of the authors opinion rather than the characters.

The second weakness for me was that towards the middle of the book I felt as though it was moving to slowly and I really needed something to happen soon or I would lose interest in the story. Fortunately, as soon as I has that thought, the story really picked up and I was swept away all over again.

Zafon breathes a vividness and life into the his characters and setting in a way that I don't often come across. In his writing you can really sense his passion for the time honoured art of reading, and that passion is catching.


7 / 8: Brilliant, couldn't put it down. Everyone should read it. Recommend that you buy it.

What did you think of The Shadow of the Wind? Did you love it, or did you find that Zafon was a little too self-indulgent for your tastes?