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Book swapping

by John Maguire
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Pages from a German book for German Literature Month
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Bookshops are on the rapid decline, that is a fact. Just one of many features of the 24-hour society that does sadden my soul. That said, I have discovered a place to obtain reading material more original than picking up a book in the supermarket. I found myself randomly shopping in what was once, when I was young, the scene of many, many a Saturday afternoon in hell, BELLE VALE SHOPPING CENTRE, Liverpool. I have often thought this would be an ideal venue if I was filming a seventies Zombie flick.

To my joy I discovered a little outlet containing rows of interesting looking used books. It was a book swap.



A place you can leave unwanted books and simply exchange for others.

I love the randomness of discovering books you never have considered reading or those that had passed you by. Since that day several weeks ago, I have been using the book swap weekly. I’ve reconnected with an old friend, Adrian Mole, now in his ‘prostate years.’ I’d completely forgotten about reading the geek hero’s exploits when I was wrestling with my own adolescence. To meet the chap now in his late thirties and discover his problems, gripes and troubles, at roughly the same age as me, has been a joyous re-union.

I have had the pleasures of creeping into the mind of history teacher Barbara Covett, in Zoe Heller’s Notes on a Scandal. Although I was quite glad to leave that lady to her cutting and arrogant observations. It was like being in the head of a Daily Mail reporter.

In the spirit of the exchange, I too have deposited a few stories. Currently in the process of moving into a new flat, I am once again having to prune my library. Books to me are like plastic carrier bags that you house in a kitchen cupboard or under the sink, they seem to multiply and multiply, until they practically take over. So I have left a few battered Dickens, some Palahniuk: Choke, Lullaby and Fight Club. A couple of random Irvine Welsh that I have outgrown, most notably Trainspotting. More of my books will certainly be leaving to populate these shelves.



It is just so great to have a little bit of haphazardness to my choice of reading matter. The result: others too may pick up volumes they would never had considered and perhaps find some new taste. Even simply a re-visit to a past favourite writer. If you know a space in your community you could promote a similar scheme, please, please do. It could be a box in your staff room, a shelf in one of your community halls. Or perhaps, you could partake in some guerrilla tactics, like leaving a book on public transport, a bus or a train? You never know what random treat you could afford somebody. A little more upbeat than the negative bias of a free newspaper. Okay, the book may get thrown in the rubbish or recycling bin, but it may influence someone to pick it up and read it, give it a new home.

A random act of kindness, something becoming increasingly rare these days.

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