Chat: Do Second-Hand Books Always Find The Perfect Home?

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Do unloved books find the right home?

On Thursday 10th May, Mum and I went to see the Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society. Aside from loving Michiel Huisman, I was taken by a single line. Huisman’s character Dawsey Adams came into possession of a book which once belonged to writer Juliet. Dawsey describes books as being like ‘homing pigeons’. He suggests an unloved book will find its way into the right hands.

Dawsey has never sorted books in a charity shop.

I did this for eighteen months in my early 20s. The first time I was told to chuck something in the ‘rag box’ I had palpitations. The rag box is something between the dustbin and the shop floor. Books consigned to the rag box weren’t sold. A company bought them for pence, fished out the treasures, and sold the rest on Amazon. We ragged dog-eared books, out of date reference-books, and a dozen copies of The Da Vinci Code every session. If it broke me the first time, it soon became automatic. I consigned books to their fate without thinking.

Knowing about ragging makes it difficult to believe books find their perfect home. It sounds idealistic. 

Except that line in the film spoke to me. 

If I have been the person who threw books into the rag box, I have also been the person who bought a double-copy of a childhood favourite because I couldn’t bear for it to go unwanted. I have carried boxes of books home from clearance sales. At 16, I refused to hand my GCSE poetry anthology back because I didn’t want it to go to someone who failed to appreciate its contents. (Thank you to the teacher on duty that day who let me keep it. My love of Carol Ann Duffy began with that book.)

Many of the books I ragged would have been sold on by another company. Maybe the rag box was just a place along the way. Part of the book’s journey to the perfect owner.

A second-hand book can be more than a homing pigeon returned to roost. It can be a soulmate. A lifelong companion. I don’t know that every book finds its ideal owner, but I too have come into possession of books and felt it was meant to be. I have dusted them down and stroked their spines and created the perfect place on my shelves.

When unloved books find the right home, they find a place in someone’s heart.


Louise Nettleton

Has the perfect book ever found you? Let me know in the comments below.

6 thoughts on “Chat: Do Second-Hand Books Always Find The Perfect Home?

  1. This is such a beautiful post! I love shopping for secondhand books. My entire LOTR collection is secondhand and I have such fond memories of finding those copies in my library book sale room.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Holly. I love putting a series together from second hand books. I remember the feeling when I completed a seven book series. (Without ordering online.) That hunt is one of my favourite bookish activities.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I found this hard when working in a charity shop too – I ended up buying or adopting numerous books every shift I worked there!
    Even books that are damaged can be recycled into gorgeous bookish artwork and be loved that way too. My bookshelf may (read: does) also contain several copies of favourites so I can push them into the hands on anyone passing by too…

    Liked by 1 person

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