We were amazed by the detailed information we got from you about
book-hunting and book-collecting and being a book hoarder. We
were expecting one or two short tales of lucky finds - and we
did get those so do please keep sending them in. But it was amazing
to read of those of you who are dedicated second hand book hunters
with a serious knowledge of good book places, strategies for collecting
and publishing lore. We certainly learnt quite a bit and because
two or three of you wrote really very detailed pieces we decided
not to cut them but to print them in full.
So keep the good advice coming in, because, remember, what is
obvious to you will be someone else's hot tip of the month!
Building a home library
Atlanta Nelson says, "I am trying
to turn my bedroom, my play room or any room possible in the house
into my home library." Is anyone else
doing something similar? If so, why not
with Home Library?
Book collecting Gill Williams, from Shropshire, emailed to say: "I've
just discovered your web site and I'm pleased to see some common
sense advice on buying books. As a Mother of a two-and-a-half
year old I have built up quite a large collection from charity
shops, all of which are in excellent condition. Just last week
I bought a hard back Shirley Hughes Treasury (as new) for just
£2. But many of my best buys have cost me less! The trick
is to never stop looking, just 'popping in' will unearth some
(Anne Fine agrees. She
was in Oxfam in Swindon recently and got two lovely books for
her grandchild: pop-up feelie books in perfect condition for just
50p each. Can't be beaten!)
Lucy Jones, 7, from Southampton wrote to
say, "We were so excited about second hand books,
so we went to Hay on Wye which is a long way away from where we
live in Southampton. Sadly we did not find Peter Carter's The
Hunted (Anne Fine, recommended this book in her review spot if
you remember). We did find The Boy Next Door by Enid Blyton (another
Anne Fine recommendation), and I have started to read it. Going
back to Hay on Wye we bought 25 books in many different second
hand book shops."
This was so interesting that we asked Lucy
to tell us about how she goes about looking for second hand books
and this is what she told us:
"I think book collecting is a fabulous hobby!! When I was
learning to read, I found some Puddle Lane books belonging to
someone else and I liked them so much that I asked Mummy to find
some more. Mummy found lots more in charity shops. Then I could
not stop reading them and they were so cheap that I could have
"The best shops are Oxfam bookshops. They only sell books
and have a lot of children's books. We go to the Winchester and
Southampton ones. Church fetes are very good too; there you can
find books that were around when your parents were children. School
fetes aren't much good because they are usually baby books or
books you've already got.
"Second hand book shops are good too, apart from the charity
shops which aren't so good because the children's section is usually
small and they are expensive hard back books. I don't mind what
they look like, I just want to read them. I must tell you about
Hay-on-Wye which is a little town near Wales that my parents took
us to. There are hundreds of second hand book shops (dozens perhaps)
with big children's sections, and 3 bookshops just for children!!!
"How do I know which ones to look for? I look for lists of
famous authors' favourite books when they were children like Anne
Fine and J.K. Rowling and I make a list of ones I haven't got.
Also if there is a book that I have enjoyed then I look in the
back and there is often a list of other books by that author with
a little description that I call the blurb. If these sound exciting
I put them on the list.
"My Mummy has lots of her old books and she reads them to
my sister and me. There was one called Castaway Christmasabout
some children who were caught in a flood. It was very exciting
and in the back there was another book by the same author called
Cut off from crumpets about the same children caught in really
snowy weather. We looked for it for ages and in the end my Mummy
found it in a bookshop in York using the Internet and ordered
it. It arrived today so we are all excited, including Mummy, who
loves children's books like I do. We keep a family list of books
that we are looking for and anyone takes it if they are going
near the shops."
Heather Golding, 17, emailed us to tell
us about a really good find in an Oxfam shop: "How
about Boy and Going Solo both by Roald Dahl, one volume, 50p in
Oxfam?? Pretty good I thought - specially as I've been looking
for those for years."
Lucy Darling, 12, also emailed to say:
"A good place to get cheap second hand books is the library,
not to borrow but to buy. I dont know whether it is the
same in every library but certainly in my local one there is a
large 'For Sale' section with all kinds of booms at very good
Stephen Follows writes: "I'm
about 20 years too old to be a proper part of My Home Library
(you can do your own arithmetic...), but I thought your members
in or near Oxford might like a few recommendations of shops here
which are particularly good for children's books.
The best of all (you won't be surprised to hear) is our own Oxfam
Bookshop, on St. Giles, in the centre of the city which has a
very large selection downstairs, and is also extremely strong
on all sorts of books for adults too. You could happily rely on
that for everything you want, but there are a few others which
The Oxfam on the Cowley Road, just before you get to Tesco, is
in a much more bohemian, raffish area of the city, and it shows:
you're much more likely to find odder things there, and especially
old prewar hardback adventure stories and the like. (If you like
those, by the way, and you don't mind paying a bit more, Waterfields
on the High Street has an awful lot which seem to have been sitting
there for ages.)
For an even better selection of the oddball, try the very weird
and wonderful Age Concern shop on St Clements near The Plain roundabout.
It's run by a man with a splendidly strange sense of humour -
his recent window displays have included shelves of beautifully
arranged empty shampoo bottles - and an ability to dig out very
unusual books, both for children and adults. He also keeps his
prices well down, and you'll find a lot of good children's paperbacks
for 10p or 20p.
There are loads of other good places round the city, so happy
On the subject of finding books in Oxfam,
we felt that Ruth Raynor's advice was very useful: She writes:
"I found this out when I went shopping in Windsor
with my mum one afternoon. My mum was bargain hunting so she popped
into the Oxfam at the end of the High Street. She asked if there
were any books on sale there as she could find none in amongst
all the old toys, clothes and other discarded items. The woman
at the counter pointed us downstairs. To our wonder there were
rows upon rows of books with really good prices. We managed to
pick up 16 books that day including a Dorling Kindersley encyclopaedia
for only £2.50 when it would have usually cost £15.
All of the books in that Oxfam are cheap and in great condition.
Please post that on the site because then people in Berkshire
will know how good the Oxfam bookshop in Windsor is. PS. I love
the bookplates on the site!"
Thanks, Ruth. Even if you don't live in
Berkshire, we suggest that you ask at your Oxfam shop if they
have more books if what is on offer seems a bit limited. Often
Oxfam - and all charity shops - are pushed for space, or the books
are displayed according to a particular theme that week, so it
really does pay to ask what they have behind the scenes!
Miranda Wenaus, 15, writes from Long Island, New York,
"My Mum and I check library bookshops and library book sales
all the time in New York too. She taught me that another way to
find hidden book treasures is to remember the publishers of books
you like. For instance, I have a picture book collection that
I started when I was quite young. I began to notice that often
my favourite picture book authors were published by Walker Books
(Candlewick Press in the States) so if I spot a Walker picture
book even if by a "new-to-me" author I will take it
down and have a look. I've discovered some beautiful picture books
such as those by Kim Lewis that way.
"Now I am 15 years old and collect British school stories
and books for girls and boys from the earlier part of the twentieth
century. The books can be very sought after and expensive so it
is thrilling to have a "library sale find." I always
look out for big fat old books especially any with pictorial boards
or dust wrappers (dust jackets). I look to see if the book has
black and white or coloured plates inside. Some publishers worth
looking out for are Chambers, Junior Country Life, Newnes, Blackie,
Cassell and Collins' "Seagull" Library. I've also learnt
that Children's Press and Armada editions are often, but not always,
updated and abridged. I've learnt not to buy a book if it says
"first thus" on the publishing information page. It
usually means the text isn't the same as when the author first
saw it published.
"Old-fashioned Christmas annuals are lovely too with beautiful
colour plates and stories about girls' outfits and hairstyles
from the twenties and thirties. Some of my favourite authors still
have fan clubs that you can join very reasonably as a junior member,
and they're very good at helping younger members find copies of
the books and learn what to look for too. I belong to several:
including ones for Elinor Brent-Dyer (author of the Chalet School
books), Elsie J. Oxenham, (author of the Abbey Girls series),
Dorita Fairlie Bruce (she wrote the Dimsie series), Malcolm Saville
(his most famous series is about the Lone Pine Club of boys and
girls), and Enid Blyton.
The clubs must be especially fun if you live in the UK since they
often have get-togethers and book sales. The Arthur Ransome one
even organises events where junior members can learn to do Swallows
and Amazons crafts and activities! Even overseas, your subscription
covers interesting newsletters that are often sent out a few times
a year, as well as extras like a club badge, the opportunity to
buy t-shirts with your favourite characters on, and the chance
to become penpals with other fans your age.
"I think Anne Fine and the Daily Telegraph have done a super
job on the "My Home Library" page. There's nothing more
fun than being a book collector!"Hilary Martin, 13, from
Brisbane in Australia, writes: "I followed the link to your
site from cool-reads (www.cool-reads.co.uk
- don't miss it!) and I think it's really good! I had a few suggestions/changes
that you might like to add to your 'reviews for the even older
readers' page. I believe you're wrong in saying that you'd be
unlikely to find The Great Elephant Chase or Harry and the Wrinklies
in second-hand shops. This might be simply because they are in
new bookshops, I bought one of these books fairly recently at
our local bookshop and greatly enjoyed it, and the other I got
from a library. I have read quite a lot of books on this page.
"I wonder if you've read The Swish of the Curtain, by Pamela
Brown? It is one of my favourite books, and if you look really
hard you might find the sequels in a second hand shop, I did.
Pamela Brown was only fourteen when she wrote it, so as a result
it is very authentic."
Of interest to readers searching for a book of which they remember
only part of the title, or the author, here's a tip from Kate
who emailed to tell us, "Essex has the whole of their
book stock listed on an on-line catalogue (http://essexlibraries.essexcc.gov.uk/evs-app)
which as well as being available in the libraries is also available
via the internet from your own home!
"This database allows you to search by title, keyword, subject
and author and - which is really good - to request anything you'd
like to borrow. They have an automated 'phone system which will
call you when the item you've requested is ready for you to collect
from your local library. Even better it's FREE to under 16's!!!
My two children often use it to request every book by a "new
to them" author or in a series that they've just discovered.
They also use it to get hold of non-fiction books on specific
Staffordshire Libraries also has an on-line catalogue (http://www.staffordshire.gov.uk),
as Viv Watkins explains: "You can search the catalogue by
title, keyword, subject and author, and (if you are a member of
the library and have arranged to get your pin number), you can
request and renew your books. You can look at your requests to
see if your books are ready to collect from the library you choose,
and membership and requests are free."
So, over to you. Do check this out and
if the place where you live does the same thing
- it would be good to keep a list here of library authorities
which offer this service - and encourage the ones that don't to
Here's another useful tip from a reader. Ruth Waterston pleads
with Home Library not to forget the importance of lending libraries
in schools. "Although public libraries exist they
are becoming more multi-media orientated, which leaves less money
for books, and in many busy homes where both parents work there
simply isn't time to visit them on a regular basis.
"I have recently launched a fiction lending library at the
primary school my children attend. We open every lunchtime with
a parent helper and let the children borrow books to take home.
The response has been fantastic.
"I wish Home Library every success and would be very interested
to network with other schools who have tried similar schemes to
encourage fiction reading."