On April 13th, for the first time in five months, I walked into a second-hand book store (JK and RK Ellis, if you’re interested) and scanned several shelves, not really sure what I was looking for. Eventually I ended up with a copy of Juvenal’s ‘Satires’. No idea why, I had no plan reading it, but for some reason I still enjoy that I’ve bought it for the cheap price of one ninety-nine. It’s something to get through someday, a nice reason to get outside.
Scientists love to suggest humans still practice their natural animal-instinct in the modern day, and the pleasure of the book hunt only exemplifies how our post-monkey minds enjoy a brutal gathering sport for a greedy rush of endorphins. More and more readers are discovering a weird addiction to sneaking books from old dusty shelves, coveting the volume all the way to the checkout and stealing the knowledge for themselves, sometimes not even reading what they have hijacked. It’s truly outlandish and gruesome when you think about it.
There is the idea that these shops ‘bolster reading habits’ but we all know the truth. Lockdown has starved us of that interaction – we don’t just want to quickly find a book but instead peruse, examine, say hello to the staff, ask questions. And doesn’t that have a better catharsis than ordering a paperback online? Don’t you feel a rush? Sit down for a second and think; where would be the ideal place to find your favourite novel? Not on a glowing white index page with a dozen buttons to click, but out there, behind that dusty grimoire no one’s touched in decades, on the packed case no one even thinks about. The book is only one half of the relationship. It can mean nothing without the hunt.