Having a book habit can be pricey, so over the years I’ve found more and more ways feed my addiction, whilst still being able to afford silly things like food and shelter. One of the best ways to get your book fix on the cheap is to shop at second hand book shops and charity shops. (Alternatively, become a book blogger and they send you books for free!)

Second hand bookshops are good for another reason too: you can find some truly beautiful old books – leatherbound, ridged spines, gold-edged pages – for roughly the same price you would pay for a modern paperback. Since I’m sure everyone here likes a bit of book porn, here are some of my most beautiful second hand bookshop purchases.

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Where I used to live, in Truro, there is the most gorgeous second hand book shop. It’s called ‘Just Books’ and I believe it’s still there. The shop is tiny, crowded with wooden shelves on every wall, and it spans several ‘floors’. I use quote marks because there aren’t really floors as such; essentially the shop is just one big staircase which spirals around the walls, so you have to sit on the stairs if you want to read anything. That’s where most of these beauties came from.

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My main haunt in this bookshop was the poetry section (just after the first corner in the staircase). I probably wouldn’t ever have read nearly as much Walter Scott or Percy Shelley as I have, had I not bought my lovely, old, worn copies and just wanted to spend some time handling them. Forget all this rubbish about not judging a book by its cover – beautiful covers have got me to read many things I otherwise wouldn’t have.

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Auctions are another fantastic way to get books. Sometimes you’ll find job lots of books, crates and crates of them. I’ve bought plenty of lots like that, ending up with hundreds of books for £20-30. The fun bit is going through them afterwards and deciding which ones you want to keep, and discovering treasures too!

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Even better, if you buy books second hand you can often find things inside them: people’s handwritten inscriptions to their loved ones, birthday cards and Christmas cards, various interesting pieces of paper that people have used as bookmarks. There are notes in the margins, folded down corners so you can see how much the previous owner read in one sitting… The book has had a life before you, and probably will continue to do so after you have finished with it.

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Buying second hand is one of the best ways to get your hands on books. New and shiny is wonderful, old and tattered is wonderful too. Books are the stories inside them and books are also beautiful objects. Go on, adopt a second hand book, give it a new home.

- gildius -