He who has no pleasure in a novel must be intolerably stupid
True diamonds in the rough, gems amongst the stones, or even a ruby that needs a little polishing are rare finds in the city centre. There are a lot of new shops in Birmingham, which are trying to 'be' vintage and 'cool', however they fall short of what is required to inspire the interest of the intended consumer. Thus, when I spotted Readers World, a second hand bookshop, my heart lit up, and even from the outside I realised I'd found one of Birmingham's original book stores which was just itching for me to delve into.
Readers World has been trading for forty-five years, and they have had a stall at the Bullring Markets since the 70's. The shop, however has been open since 1999, and has become somewhat of a cult book store for collectors of the classic, bespoke, and miscellaneous text.
They stock thousands of magazines, books, hardback novels, short stories, and comics, but as the owner, Bob, told me, it's not the vintage Playboy, or classic books from the Romantic period, which are the big sellers.
Bob is one of those people you meet in life and never forget. He is one of a kind, well read, funny, and refreshingly honest. He has stayed true to the ethos of the shop, and spoke with me candidly about what they sell, who their customers are, and how he would define the book shop.
I quickly realised Bob is a clever man as he spoke of the genres they stock. From contemporary and modern novels at the front of the store, to more specialist like comic books, vintage Radio Times magazines, and skinhead genre, to even more unusual like vintage Chinese pornography, Bob knew every piece of text like the back of his hand. Although confident with each piece of literature, Bob has a debonair, almost blasé attitude, which I feel comes with being surrounded by books you've researched, and know so well. But he wasn't care-free in an overly-confident manner; Bob merely stated the facts as though I was on his level, and at times, I'll admit, I was a bit lost by some names of authors and genres he mentioned.
Speaking of a bit lost, Bob surprised me when he showed the surprisingly wide range of devil-worshipping, and witchcraft literature of which they try and keep in mint condition. The one novel which caught my eye was Devil Worship in France by popular novelist A.E. Waite. According to Bob (and I trust him), A.E. Waite is the Stephen King of literature concerning black magic, and dark religion. Who knew?! This particular copy is sold at £200 (!), but if you're a collector of such books, Bob keeps it in good condition.
Readers World also keep an extension back catalogue of classic Penguin novels like Huxley, D.H.Lawrence, as well as a 1929 edition of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre.
More light-hearted literature includes comic books Beano and Dandy from the 1970's and 1980's, as well as children's story books like Rupert the Bear. All of the British and American animation series are kept in mint condition, but what truly impressed me were the original copies of film posters Bob had in stock. Film posters used to be hung outside the cinema advertising the film on show (much like 21st adverts we see plastered on large boards).
The Clint Eastwood poster dates back to 1977, and is kept in a sealed plastic cover to stave off tanning (when the pages go brown).
What really impressed me most wasn't the volume of books on show - 10,888 to be precise - but Bob's knowledge. He knows about trends in vintage literature and told me that it's not necessarily the age of a novel which makes it attractive these days. Apparently the fin-de-sicle, the bizarre, and unusual books are most sought. The hard-to-come-by novels either in hard back, kept in mint condition, or a little aged are what people want, understandably.
Bob also said, however, there is a growing trend for second hand stationery books; notebooks, diaries and journals and Readers World happen to have a notebook from the 1920's, which has a few accounts noted down in it, which I found fascinating.
Funnily, Readers World also boast a number of books which have a well-used look about them. Flowers, small spiders, and pages have been found in many of the books they stock, which gives - in my opinion - a truly vintage quality to the novels, which makes it hard to compete with, if not impossible.
I do love the feel of a new book; the texture of just-published novels have a certain air to them, and sometimes, you can still smell the ink. Old, vintage, pre-used books however, have an altogether different 'feel' to them. Call me romantic, but I imagine the fingers who have also flicked the page, the foods someone may have been eating while reading, as I see some aged crumb in the crevices of the pages. Second-hand books have a quality new books have yet to earn, and while a new novel is exciting, an older novel with tanned pages and a slightly-musky scent, does something altogether different to me.
If you feel the same, or are just looking for a novel with character, or a cheaper novel that you've been looking for on the High Street, have a look in Readers World and see if you find that special story.