Wednesday Reads: Second Hand September Edition

This is coming in a little late, thanks to some work stuff eating into my personal time. But here we are again, like every other Wednesday, with books and blog posts and other fun wordy stuff.

We’re almost halfway into Second Hand September. The hashtag has been used by fashion bloggers and social media users in previous years, but this year the charity Oxfam adopted it as part of their campaign to highlight the environmental cost of fast fashion and promote their charity shops. As someone who rarely buys new clothes anyway, I’m all on board with that, so it’s hardly a ‘challenge’ for me like it is for most people taking the #SecondHandSeptember pledge. What is new for me is making more effort to get my geek fix from second hand sources.

Here’s Oxfam’s own post about why Second Hand September, and the fight against buying new, is such an important movement. And if fashion if your thing, here’s a piece about how to make your clothes last longer, reducing the need to buy new.

If you want to get creative with your recycling efforts, here’s a tutorial for turning an old T-shirt into a tote bag (great way to reduce your plastic usage). It does require a sewing machine, but if you don’t sew, then here’s a new-sew alternative (I’ve made a couple of these myself in the past, but I prefer to make them with the knots on the inside, which simply involves turning the shirt inside-out before cutting and knotting).

As for what I’ve actually been reading this week, I’ve been making some extra trips to my local charity shops to see what they have in the way of geeky reading.

If you’re looking for second-hand books, then specialist charity book shops are your best bet – your average high street charity shop will most likely just have a small book section that’s mostly paperback fiction and cook-books. The best thing you’re likely to find in there is some manga that’s been mistakenly shelved with the kids’ books.

I’m lucky to live in a university-city with some bigger charity shops with decent book departments – the type where books are actually organised into categories rather than just all shelved together. Even better, some of them actually have whole sections just for comics!

At the start of September I picked up volume one of ‘Very Near Mint’, by Justin Peterson. It’s a comic about comics. Or rather, about two guys who run a comic book shop, and what happens when the latest delivery of new books doesn’t show up. What starts as one (large) problem quickly spirals into several enormous problems, and things get a bit metaphysical along the way.

The book has some good reviews, and I can see why – the art style, somewhere between ‘Scott Pilgrim’ and ‘Total Drama’, means that everyone is easily recognisable, and the characters and dialogue are recognisable to anyone who’s even walked past a comic shop. It has the obligatory fourth-wall breaking and pop culture references, and on the surface it’s a fun read.

It’s a bit too blokey for my tastes, though. Is there an American approximation of blokey? Does ‘laddish’ translate into American? It’s about guys bein’ dudes, but with comics. And there’s one girl, who’s the lead guy’s ex-girlfriend, and she exists to exchange a page-worth of snarky dialogue and later to be rescued from a super-villain (in a dream sequence, but still). It’s all a bit too ‘Clerks’ – I liked ‘Clerks’, but I didn’t need another version of it. It’s yet another case of men writing about men and sprinkling in a girl as an extra rather than integrating her into the plot.

If snarky comic book shop guys are your thing, you might want to check it out. But for me, it’s definitely not one I would have paid full price for to buy new. But that’s the joy of second-hand geekery, I guess – the charity shop gets my two pounds, and I get material for my blog if nothing else.

My favourite buy of the month so far is definitely ‘Howl: A Graphic Novel’. It takes Allen Ginsberg’s 1956 poem and the artwork from Eric Drooker’s 2010 animated adaptation of it to create an impressive new way to experience the original work.

Although the book format breaks up the flow of the poem somewhat (it sits at 222 pages), setting the words against the rich, atmospheric art gives it added depth – I’m a big fan of multi-sensory artistic experiences. And reading this book is possibly better than having to watch James Franco in the film adaptation, right?

Looking online, I picked up a couple of second-hand BL novels from ebay back at the start of the month. ‘Jazz’ is a multi-volume story about a doctor who’s seduced by a patient, and…I’m not going to go into much more detail, because it’s frankly from the problematic BL era where pressuring someone into sex was romanticised and written as the start of a relationship rather than a reason to run for the hills.

I’m hanging on to the books only because I’m considering an in-depth essay about the evolution of BL with some actual comparisons and examples. It’s research, if you will.

I have more second-hand books that I’m still working my way through (non-comic books), as well as some new manga to review, but that will be in an upcoming reads round-up post. Until then, do continue to share with me your best second-hand geek buys, as well as your thoughts on second-hand shopping in general.

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