The secret life of second hand books

Second hand books are one of those things I can fill my day with. Browsing a labyrinth of unassociated titles feels like being on a treasure hunt. It is hard to describe to the uninitiated how much fun it is to recognize books you have already read or still have in your bookshelf.  The intense delight in imagining who read a certain book and why they have done away with it. And the utter joy in finally finding something precious you really need although you weren’t aware of it up to that very moment. Luckily Frankfurt has a few very good second hand book browsing options, including both German and English language books and sometimes even French or Spanish. At the libraries, the Stadtbücherei,  there are often worn and torn books for sale and some bookstores have boxes of used books in a lost corner.

But the real joys of the treasure hunt take place elsewhere:

Starting with the Oxfam bookshop near the Liebfrauenkirche. This shop has a large selection of good quality second hand books sorted according to types of books ranging from thrillers to audiobooks, history books and English language fiction.

At the Bockenheimer Warte is a book flea market run by a wizened lady with a big smile. An endless amount of books – dealing with a surprisingly wide range of themes – is displayed in carton boxes or crates. The collection is continuously DSC_4035-01transformed as a fresh supply of books comes in daily. From academic books to thrillers, music scores to art books everything can be found, all you need is time as they are not sorted. When it rains you can continue to peruse as the crates are under the concrete gateway to the inner courtyard of the old Goethe University. And when the day is hot and sunny (which it very often is) a cool breeze blows through the aforementioned entrance which also offers sheltering shade.

And last but not least there are the many Public Bookcases dispersed around the city. These bookshelves are filled with used books. The idea is that you can leave old books here and take away whatever you fancy – and it works. There are always people scanning the yield of the day, or fishing books out of a rucksack and placing them on a shelf. Near the booksEnglish Theater is the inner-city bookcase with mostly English language books, in Westend near the synagogue I found a book with fascinating observations about Israel and  in alternative Bornheim a thriller about African black magic. Each city district has its own bookcase, and the collection often reveals something about the surroundings and the people that live or work there­­­­. Out of curiosity I’m planning a cycling tour with a stop at every Public Bookshelf in Frankfurt – as soon as I have finished all the books I’ve already collected.

3 thoughts on “The secret life of second hand books

  1. I, too, love browsing second-hand book shops. Not that I can buy any more, my physical shelves are so full I have towers of books on tables and floor.
    I once went to Hay on Wye to browse the book stores, garages, etc., for academic works. I loved it and found some real gems.
    I’m really taken with the idea of small free libraries and have been contemplating creating a small one of my own, at the bottom of my drive, where anyone passing can help themselves to any book they like the look of. Might be a great way to clear some of my shelves ready for more books 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good idea! I cleared out a lot of my books on King’s day in Amsterdam (when everyone sells their stuff on the streets). It’s fun to see how happy the new owners of my old books are when they find something they enjoy.

      Liked by 1 person

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