This blog is emphatically about second-hand things; I write it because I want to celebrate buildings and objects which are dusty, weathered, vintage, ancient. Most of the things which I buy for myself have first passed through other people’s hands, which makes them both more interesting and less expensive. But I’ve decided now that an exception needs to be made. I need to start buying books again.
Of course I’ll still go to the library for my Georgette Heyers and Philippa Gregorys – libraries are precious and brilliant and that should not be forgotten. I’ll still buy crumpled and faded second-hand books from charity shops, like the tiny little hardback Moby Dick I got for £1 and have been happily reading on trains. But from now on, I am going to buy at least one new book per month, because I owe it to myself and I owe it to books. That probably doesn’t sound like very much but I’m trying to tighten purse-strings so it is where I will begin.
The reasons for this could be seen as self-serving. As I work in publishing, I know how important it is that people buy the hundreds of brand-new beautiful books which are full of hard work and love, and that they buy them from real brick-and-mortar places. I’ve realised it is hypocritical of me to spend my days helping to produce new pages, and then to only buy old ones. My budgeting has stopped me buying books, but they are a worthwhile indulgence.
Bookshops are not simply decorative. They are seas to swim in.
After all that, you might be interested to know what I bought this month.
This is Stories in the Stars: An Atlas of Constellations by Susanna Hislop, and skilfully illustrated by Hannah Waldron.
It’s a splendid cloth-bound collection of the myths told about the constellations from all over the world. I’ve learned that the brightest star in Aries is actually two stars; that there is a toucan in the sky; that Native American and Hebrew traditions also saw Ursa Major as a bear; and that there is a unicorn constellation called Monoceros whose horn is a pillar of dust and gas.
These stories have been passed down over hundreds of years, mutating as they went their separate ways around the world, as each generation explained the sky to the next. They are, in a way, second-hand. But I know that doesn’t really let me off – normal service will resume soon.
p.s I’ll be sharing the books I buy each month over on my Instagram, tagged #newleafnewbook