Every second-hand book tells two stories: one within its pages and another of the life it lived before changing hands.
Whether mundane or extraordinary, on a grand scale or intensely personal, every second-hand book conceals the story of its past life. Lives filled with love, loss, scandal and conflict, these are the intimate and incredible stories that author Josh Spero uncovered after tracking down the previous owners of twelve of his second-hand books…
Tom Dunbabin, a Classics scholar who became a spy, leading the resistance against the Germans in Crete in the Second World War.
Peter Levi, a priest who fell in love with his friend’s wife.
Belinda Dennis, a contrary Latin teacher, and Emilie Vleminckx, an equally contrary Latin student.
And James Naylor, a boy the author once loved.
Combined with stories from the author's own life – from growing up in London as a poor boy at a public school to becoming a scholar Oxford and later a tutor in Hampstead – and his lifelong love and pursuit of classical education, Second-Hand Stories is a unique memoir that celebrates not just one life, but all the lives connected through second-hand books.
It will make you reconsider your own second-hand books, the people who owned them and what stories they have to tell.
"Bold and beguiling ... The theme may deal with the ancients, but the book, a memoir with a fictional sensibility, the different lives reading like a collection of short stories, feels very contemporary. One has to applaud Spero's bullishness in taking on such a subject – and his infectious persuasion that, far from being something dusty and arcane, the classics are as vividly relevant now as then and can be enjoyed by people from any kind of background."