Imagine a cavernous warehouse, a thousand square foot that used to hold carpets but now holds books by the thousand and other paraphernalia. This warehouse is one of my most favourite places, close enough to walk to and the kind of place you can spend hours just browsing. The  slight bugbear is that you are only allowed to take away 3 free books per person, which seems frugal considering the wealth of books they hold, but in reality makes sense because there would always be people who would take advantage.

This particular free book store is run  entirely by volunteers of the Healthy Planet organisation and is open most days in the week. It houses everything from the latest novels to rare anthologies of plants and poems. I don’t know about you but I am not a book snob. I am just as happy reading a physical copy as a digital copy on my kindle. There is something beautiful though about a book that you come across that has been well-loved. The pages may be a little worn, the binding may be falling apart but the treasure is still contained within. These yellowing books retain a smell reminiscent of dust and mould and tea combined. I like to imagine how many hands before mine have held that particular book and what kinds of lives those people lived.

I read to escape, to , just for a while, inhabit another life.When you read you can transform your life. You can be anyone you want. The only limit is your own imagination. I am no longer a stay at home mother, I am an adventurer exploring new lands, I am powerful instead of impotent, I am entirely other than myself. William Nicholson said ” We read to know that we are not alone”, something I concur with wholeheartedly. Just as we reach out to others , in our loneliness, through social networking , so do we read. If you have no friends in real life books are full of faithful characters willing to duel in battle alongside you.

It is because of romantic heroes such as Mr.Darcy that we have such a fixed idea of what a man should be. Yes he was reserved and cold initially but once Elizabeth made an impact on his heart he was delight and love personified.

Another bugbear with this particular place is they have countless copies of the same book. I suppose they have no say over their donations but it seems silly to take up so much space with the same book when there are others that could be displayed. One of this places inherent charms is its higgeldy piggeldy nature. Books are labelled by author and set in sections but large amounts of books are left to fend for themselves. I don’t mind. I like a bit of book hide and seek.

This store has been a place of coincidence twice in my life. Once I selected a book at random, only to find a character in the story had the same surname as myself (not a common one) and another time a book referred to Pascals wager which I had been discussing with a friend the night before. This was another book selected at random. Almost as if someone wanted me to have those books, but hey, feel free to scoff.

When I first started frequenting this bookstore I used to search for certain authors I already knew and loved. But lately I have been trying new authors, with mixed success. One genre I have enjoyed discovering are the thrillers of Patricia Cornwell and her Scarpetta series. They combine medical and forensic studies with intrigue and drama.

Books are more than just an escape, they are a way to increase our own knowledge. As an aspiring writer I have been noticing other people’s sentence construction, plot narration and dialogue. Like having your own Writing coach. This store enables me and my children to read books we could not afford ordinarily. To rediscover old loves and make new favourites.

Till next time.

image courtesy of Google.

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