Five Reasons to Buy Charity Shop Books

Okay for those of you who don’t know me, or those who do but have never had the misfortune to accompany me on a shopping trip, I have to admit that buying charity shop books is one of my all-time favourite guilty pleasures. (Sordid, I know). In fact, the only thing that makes me more excited than the prospect charity shop books is library books and well … let’s just not go there. My mum – who, unfortunately for her, has accompanied me on far too many shopping trips – knows to hunker down and settle herself in for the long haul when the lure of affordable books drifts my way. But the question begs: how can I love something which, by its very definition, has been given away because somebody doesn’t want it anymore? Well, they do say one man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure after all, or, in this case, a woman’s. So, in a silly yet serious post, let me hit you up with five reasons why you should give once-loved books a new home.

1. It’s for a good cause … 

Even before the books themselves, this reason has to come first. TESCO is famous for its slogan: ‘Every little helps’ and, where charities are concerned, every little helps just that little bit more. Charities fund vital research into diseases, improve the possibilities for children all over the world, help people to rehabilitate their lives, or deal with the frightening prospect of them ending; at the risk of sounding didactic then, charities are definitely something we should spare a second thought about. Buying something as simple as a book from your local charity store is a great way to make a positive, feel-good contribution, with the added bonus incentive of getting something you want out of the deal. It’s a complete win-win situation.

2. It’s affordable …

Book are beautiful, these days they’re also pretty expensive with a high-gloss, nonfiction hardback setting you back £25 or more, and a long-running series breaking the bank at over £50. A good book collection, all told, can cost more than a Gucci handbag, so wouldn’t it be great to be able to buy everything from the Canon to the contemporary at a mere shade of their original price? Charity shop books are as inexpensive as they come, with most paperbacks ranging somewhere between 99p to £2 and most hardbacks from £1 to £4 depending on the type/size of the book – in a previous post I even mentioned one book which I bought for as little as 40p! [Click Here for article] With a keen eye, and a little persistence, you can soon build up a repertoire to be proud of, and one that’s more likely to break the shelves in your house before the bank.

3. You never know what you’ll find …

This has to be the most thrilling part of all charity shop book buying, when you walk through the door you’re almost guaranteed to be surprised by what’s on offer on the shelves. First editions, special editions, editions that have been out of print for years, text books, guidebooks, hulking  great encyclopaedias, specialized literature, romanticized literature, literature on everything from animals to world wars to trains. If I had to write a definitive list of everything that I’ve seen, even in just the last year alone, I’d be dead before I’d finished it. Charity shops are like the bibliophile’s chocolate factory, broken down into bitesize pieces and scattered throughout the country. And every one has a slightly different flavour of books on offer which, with a few bites, you’ll soon discover your favourites. For me, it has to be the Extra Care branch in St Helens shopping centre, where I can buy enough natural history books to satisfy my second guilty pleasure.

4. It’s not ‘all just junk’ …

Now, I know charity shops have a bit of an unfortunate reputation; I’ve volunteered in one and seen first-hand the kinds of things people thought it was acceptable to ‘donate’ aka dump. Let me tell you, the only thing these items were fit for was burning. As a rule though, charity shops – like all other shops – will only put out what is fit to sell, and where books are concerned this means that the spine might show some wear, or the pages, depending on the age of the book, might have some discolouration. The way I see it though, these are just the natural consequences of reading anything, and my own copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is in such a bad state that it would be unfit to even give away, so who am I to judge? (The pain of dropping a hard-back book on its spine). But just as a book might show signs of pre-love, it just as equally might not. In charity shops all over the country there are books that have never even been opened sitting on the shelves, often with their original price tags still on. For myself personally, I own an encyclopaedia of Mythology that is still as beautiful as the day it was shop-bought, and a copy of David Attenborough’s first series-accompanying book ‘Life on Earth’ from 1979, which is in damn near perfect condition – both of which were bought for the small fare of a pound. So the next time someone synonymises ‘charity shop’ and ‘junk’ the only thing I can say is either ignore them, or make up your own mind.

5. Who doesn’t want to give a book a good home …

It’s a sad fact of life that up to 77 million books a year are either shredded or sent to landfill, mainly because they remain unsold. Charity shops are just a small part of the war against this process, with books that may have been destined for the same fate being redistributed back into the community, where they can be re-read and re-loved. Buying charity shop books, therefore, means that you are also a vital part of this process too (kudos to you 🙂 ). Maybe it’s the writer in me, but the thought of any form of literature being destroyed fills me with sadness, both for myself and future generations. Books may be just a collection of words held together by illustrated covers, but our world would be a darker place without them. Literature, at its heart, is humanity and morality and, whether it is bought for £1 or £60, I think we need as much of it as we can possibly get this side of the twenty-first century.



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