I started volunteering at House of Hodge in July this year, and I have I struggled to get to the end of each shift without buying a book - because as any of our customers know, our secondhand books are irresistible and cheap. My living room is filled with more vegetarian cookbooks, Middle Eastern travel guides and self-help books than the Waterstones in Piccadilly.
This problem has grown to the extent that I think I need to use the Dewey Decimal System to find my cat. I woke this morning to find the entrance to my bathroom was obstructed with the complete works of Jane Austen and finally decided enough is enough!
So, to aid my recovery, I have compiled a list of reasons to remind me why I should stop buying secondhand books.
1. Books can't replace friends
A good book can tell you a story, teach you a lesson, prevent you from doing something stupid. It can make you have a good time. It can be hard to leave. It can be the first thing you reach for in the morning and last thing you put down before you sleep. It can help you see the world in a different light and help you to connect with others over a common interest. It can be read with a cup of tea or go with you to the beach in the summer. It does not argue with you; is always there when you need it and it will stay with you to the end. Aren’t these things a friend in human form would do?
2. The danger of recommending a book you own but have not read
We all know the uncle or aunt, friend, mum, foreign relative, sister’s boyfriend or complete stranger seated at your dinner table describing, in fragments, the plot of a book they have not read at all. With good intent, they offer the (imagined) reasoning behind a story, they laud a writing style they find “so refreshing” and outline interesting lessons from what ‘should definitely be a must-read’. I don't want to be that person. I would prefer to start a conversation about a book I definitely have read and argue - possibly vociferously - as to why I thought it was absolutely right that the antagonist died before knowing she was loved after all.
3. There are more important things to spend your money on
Instead of spending your money supporting a range of animal charities when you buy a book from the House of Hodge, here are some alternative very needed purchase suggestions:
An airfryer - and if you already have one, you need a spare
A banana slicer - in case you run out of knives
Gym membership - as winter is the very best time to set your hot chocolate and novel aside and go out in the rain and darkness to get your a*** in shape
A didgeridoo - relaxing and not as difficult or awful as it sounds
Gift cards - which are far more personal than a voucher.
4. Why read a dystopian futuristic novel if you can just watch the news?
You might think I’ve got this wrong - because the movie is never as good as the book…I must admit you are mostly right on that front, but I don’t mean the movie in this case - but just turn on the news: tyrannical governments, environmental disasters, fear and distress. I’m not even going to mention Trump’s potential USA re-election in 2024. Who needs a book to predict the end of the world and present a dystopian world when it is all happening in real life? (That said, we may be better off experiencing such dystopia in fiction only so as to protect ourselves from the real world. And might more of it actually prevent the world going totally pear-shaped?)
5. The Internet knows best
I’ve recently spent some time browsing the History and Science sections in the House of Hodge and comparing what is there with extremely accurate sources such as Wikipedia, or the first webpage displayed through a random Google search, or a forum expressing the opinions of a random bunch of people/bot, and I am now convinced that The Internet knows best. Because it has an explanation for everything. For example: The Internet knows what happens if you paint your teeth white with nail polish, how to become a mermaid, how to get spaghetti stains out of underwear, if skeletons are real or made up and how to take care of your pet potato. These are all questions that I haven’t found the answers to in a book as yet.
I hope that by sharing this list you too now have good reasons for not buying books from the House of Hodge. And if I haven't convinced you yet please feel free to drop by and have a chat. Just make sure you don’t buy anything : )
- Sigrid B, House of Hodge Volunteer