Bought at a steal or stumbled upon in a trash heap, second-hand books are storehouses of personal histories, often captured in a forgotten bookmark or a fading inscription by Lalita Iyer
, The Hindu BusinessLine.
Many uses: Long after a book you owned has left your shelf and travelled to someone else’s — handed down, stolen, lost or sold — a part of you lives in it
Photo: KAMAL NARANGI don’t remember exactly when my love for second-hand books began, but I do remember scouring the footpaths of King’s Circle in Mumbai, where my aunt lived, to make my birthday money stretch — I was looking to see just how many Agatha Christies I could buy for the ₹100 or so I got each year. Sometimes, I came back with at least five or six; they would last me the summer vacation. I remember calculating that I could have bought just one new book with that money, and feeling smug at my smart thinking.
Like me, there are many who find joy in browsing the remnants of other people’s collections — and often accidentally discovering writing of the kind you never knew existed. This is precisely why second-hand bookshops came into being, I think. At least, that’s how I found George Mikes, John Berendt, Bruce Chatwin and Penelope Lively.
Long after a book you owned has left your shelf and travelled to someone else’s — handed down, stolen, lost or sold — a part of you lives in it.
Stand-ins for a bookmark — bus or train tickets, newspaper cuttings, leaves, pocket combs, movie tickets, twigs, hair pins (I once even found a grocery list) — lie there, cocooned, waiting to be discovered by the new owner...
My hardbound copy of Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland
(my super efficient mother gave away my childhood copy when I moved out) came from Literati Bookshop in Goa — a charming old villa for all things old and wonderful. It was also here that I picked up Ursula Sedgwick’s My Learn-to-Cook Book
, my son Re’s first cookbook, which had been originally gifted to a Sherry in 1973 by Aunty Banso, Uncle Keki and (perhaps their children) Ketayun and Minso. Perhaps Sherry (or her mother) had further inscribed it with “Sherry’s first cooking book”, which makes me believe they had a lot of fun cooking from this book, as did Re and I, although it was more about baking — cheesy baked potatoes, zoo biscuits, fruit crumble, tartlets and fairy cakes. Read more...