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The magic of second-hand bookshops – part two

My recent post about the delights of antiquarian and second-hand bookshops, seems to have struck a chord with many of my blog followers. By coincidence I found this interesting article from Sam Sacks, who writes on fiction for the Wall Street Journal, about his experience of working in bookstores. While he loves the portability that ereaders and other devices offer, the feeling of going into a store and of building your own library is irreplacable in his view. What he loves most is spending time  as a volunteer at the Housing Works charity bookstore in downtown Manhattan.

We browsers might think on walking into the store that there is little rhyme or reason to how the shelves are organised.But Sam explains that the selection isn’t as whimsically random as it looks at first glance.  In fact, the decision of what goes next to what is the product of considerable thought, the trick of which however, is to make the result look almost accidental.

“The chance of discovery is vital to the act of book-browsing, so I always tried to fill the categories that attract different kinds of truth-seekers—religion, new age, and philosophy. The habitués of these sections (along with those of classics, children’s books, and cookbooks) compose a bookstore’s most enthusiastic patrons, and they add to its sense of magic,” he reveals.

Next time I come across something in one of the second hand stores or charity shops that I think is a real find, I’m going to have to remember that this was probably part of a plan by someone like Sam who says: ” I always sprinkled the dollar- and fifty-cent-book shelves with gems of higher value to cultivate the feeling of treasure hunting that draws so many people to bookstores in the first place.that I think is a hidden treasure.”


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