There’s a lot to be said about that “new car smell”. Just the words itself conjure up images of a sleek dashboard filled with shiny gadgets and gizmos; the upholstery, smooth and cool to the touch, free of any snags and rents; the door handles, gleaming to the touch, not a sticky fingerprint anywhere in sight.
And although one cannot deny the appeal of objects shiny and new, there are some things whose appearance and appeal – I find – vastly improve with age. Books are at the top of that list.
It’s not just penny pinching that drives me repeatedly to the bosom of the second hand bookstore. Call it silly, but I actually enjoy reading a book more if it is an old battered copy rather than a pristine version from the shelves of a big soul-destroying chain store. To me, the old copy indicates readership; the many hands and hearts before me that have lapped up the words and lost themselves in the storyline. I am not a fan of notes scribbled in the margins, as I feel that one should be allowed to explore the story without outside influence or prejudice. I do however love picking up books that have a personal message or dedication on the front page; it makes me feel connected with the previous owner. Which is also why when I receive a book as a gift, I always ask the gifter to add in a wee personal message so that I will always have an association of the book with that person.
Some of the books I own are so battered that they are literally in need of medical aid as they are falling apart. When that happens, I hand them over to my mum who has been head nurse in charge of book care since I was a wee one. She has somehow managed to staunch the bleeding of the worst tears and has managed to rebuild most of badly cracked spines. Where book restoration is concerned, she is the Guru.
And, no matter how much the large chain stores will beckon, I will not be easily swayed. Clearly, I am not the only one.