I haven’t ever read as many books on my phone as I have these past months. But as convenient as it may be to have an entire library stashed away on my phone, it doesn’t compare to the feeling of reading real books and building my own physical library. That’s why, whenever I pass through the Algarve, I always stop at the Refúgio dos Burros charity shop in Lagoa (there is also one in Carvoeiro and Ferragudo) to pick out a few books.
The UK has a long history and tradition when it comes to charity shops, one of the first being established as early as 1899 when the Wolverhampton Society for the Blind opened a shop to sell goods made by blind people in order to raise money.
The Refúgio dos Burros charity shops are continuing on that tradition as all proceeds go towards providing a caring home for abandoned donkeys, dogs, cats, and other animals. The charity shops, on which the non-profit organisation relies, sell everything from furniture, clothes and, of course, hundreds of books for whom they have an entire floor dedicated in the Lagoa shop.
All books are sold for a mere 50 cents and, in the past, I have found books by classic authors such as Hemingway, Dickens and Fitzgerald, all the way to more modern novels by John Grisham, Ken Follett and Dan Brown. Though, if someone could one day donate some Bukowski books to the charity shop, I would really appreciate it.
Although the first known charity shops date back over 100 years, becoming especially widespread during the Second World War when the Red Cross opened hundreds of shops, bookselling dates back over 2,000 years. Ancient scribes were the earliest booksellers, though back then books were much rarer and written by hand.
In Ancient Greece, a few philosophers like Aristotle and Plato boasted their own library, but it wasn’t until the Romans came along that having your own library became fashionable.
I first got into reading at a young age because my grandparents would bring over the latest Harry Potter and CHERUB books from the UK every time they came to visit Portugal. Since then, reading has become a large part of my life and I have kept every book I have ever read.
It may seem pretty obvious, but one of Murakami’s (one of my favourite authors) top tips on writing is to just read more. From great novels to not-so-great novels, from great writing to lots of mediocre writing, his biggest tip is to absorb as many stories as you physically can. And one of the best ways to read everything you can get your hands on is to shop at second-hand book stores or charity shops.
Part of the fun is not knowing what you might find and it’s how I like to think people used to feel browsing record shops back in the day. Maybe you will come across a new author you have never heard of, or a book by your favourite author that you haven’t read yet, or even find a copy of your favourite book with a cool vintage cover.
Even if I’ve already read a book but don’t own my own copy, I’ll still seek it out to add to my personal collection. Back during my university days, a friend lent me a copy of the book Widow Basquiat by Jennifer Clement. It is a poetic exploration of the artist Basquiat (who is also one of my all-time favourite artists) through the eyes of his muse, Suzanne. It was one of the best books I’d ever read, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on my own copy even though I’d just finished reading it. Funnily enough, someone who didn’t know I’d even read the book gifted me a copy for my birthday a couple of weeks later.
Once I finish a book, its story becomes a part of my story, and that’s why I like to collect books. Each finished book is like adding a trophy or personal achievement to my bookcase and it is our own personal libraries that display our interests and passions and provide a record of all the different phases we go through throughout our life.
The Refúgio dos Burros is totally self-funded and receives no government help. It’s thanks to the hard work of their volunteers in the charity shops and people’s kind donations that they have support for food, vets’ bills, medication, and all the costs of running an animal refuge. You can help by donating via their website www.refugiodosburros.org or by donating animal feed, blankets, collars, and toys, which can be left in one of the charity shops.
By Jay Costa Owen
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Jay recently graduated from the Faculty of Fine Artes in Lisbon. Jay’s interests are exploring new cultures through photography and the myths, legends and history that define them.