Op shops. Charity shops, secondhand stores, Vinnies, Salvos, the Goodwill. Call them whatever you like, wherever you are.
For some they're a curiosity, a ubiquitous presence on your small town strip. For others they're a place you were supposed to go to drop off that box of old shit in the boot of the car, but you never got around to it. Some would argue they're a whole way of life - clothes, shoes, kitchenware, appliances, furniture, vinyl records (big surprise, we like those too). You can get anything at the op shop.
If you've been to your local one recently, you might have seen a middle-aged man standing by the bookshelves, wrestling with his phone to get an extreme close-up selfie of his own left nostril.
That's because the December 2022 challenge for Tough Guy Book Club was to go browse the cracked and faded spines at your local #opshop.
TGBC has a wide range of attitudes to book ownership. We've talked about this a lot - some of us like them new and pristine in matched special editions. Some of us jam them in our back pockets and beach bags, dog-ear the pages and beat them all to hell. Others don't even care about physical copies anymore because the future is in the infinite e-reader and audiobook libraries.
Point is there's a lot of paperbacks out there. Lots of them end up in the op shop. Some of them are going to be garbage, because of course. Shitty fantasy, romance novels with man-boob on the cover, thrillers by guys called Name SURNAME.
Bu you can't deny there's something special about cocking your head painfully sideways and shuffling along a row of wobbly fixtures. Your head racing with names and titles. Sorting the ones you know from the ones you've vaguely heard of, and the ones you have no idea about but might give a shot. Every now and then you slip one out with your index finger, check the back cover. Maybe even open and read the first sentence. The good ones get tucked under your arm. And sometimes, if you're lucky, you strike gold. A first edition of a book you've never read by your favourite author! You gasp out loud and everybody in the shop looks at you funny. But you don't care as you do a little happy dance up to the counter, say hello to the lady and pay about 75 cents for the whole lot.
Book shopping is fucking great, right?
Of course there are other benefits. It's good to reuse and recycle, it gets you out into the community, and puts money in the pockets of organisations which - like ours - are trying to do some good. For many this month it was a good excuse to catch up with other goons, grab a coffee, perhaps even bring the partner and kids along for this most sacred TGBC activity.
Maybe we'll start a secondhand revolution that will single-handedly fix our social ills and save the planet? Or maybe we'll just add to the big pile on the bedside table.
Either way it'll be fun. Shop on.