I’ve written a book – and I need your help

Every second-hand book you have has a story. It has been owned by one or more people before you, and each of them has a life filled with love, loss, drama and conflict, sometimes on a grand international scale, other times intensely personal. Those are exactly what I found in the lives of the people who used to own my books – and they’re the stories I want to share with you.

Screen shot 2014-09-18 at 21.21.39As I studied Latin and Greek at university, I went through all my second-hand Classics books, examining the hand-written names and bookplates for clues. What I came up with, after I had tracked down eleven previous owners, was a set of astonishing personal and public stories from around the world, covering a century of triumphs, disasters and intimacies.

Tom Dunbabin was a Classics scholar who became a spy, leading the resistance against the Germans in Crete in the Second World War. Peter Levi was a poet and a priest who fell in love with a friend’s wife while at the same time subverting Greece’s military dictatorship. Belinda Dennis was a contrary Latin teacher and Emilie Vleminckx a contrary Latin student. And James Naylor was a boy I loved.

Video: Josh Spero talks about Second-Hand Stories

To bring the whole book together, each chapter starts with some memoir from my life: being a precocious kid in Jewish north-west London, a poor boy at a public school, a scholar at Oxford and a tutor in Hampstead. I’d like to say you’ll read all about my athletic prowess and perpetual popularity, but instead you’ll get the truth – however amusing or embarrassing. Sometimes, indeed, that truth connects unexpectedly with the lives I’m writing about, revealing a lot more than I first imagined.

So if you love reading about books or Classics or history or war or poetry or plays or Oxford or University Challenge or scandal or any of a dozen more things, there is something in Second-Hand Stories for you. And after reading Second-Hand Stories, I bet you’ll take a minute next time you pick up one of your own second-hand books to think about who has held it before you – and what stories they could tell.

If you’d like to read more about my book – or sponsor it – please visit Unbound.

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2 thoughts on “I’ve written a book – and I need your help

  1. Josh – looking forward to the book, which I have just bought. If you want to see books with stories, you should really come and visit us at the London Library. We’ve never thrown a book away so we now have over 1m books that have been available for lending since 1841. You can browse the shelves and potentially find the same books borrowed by people as wide ranging as Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, Bram Stoker, Virginia Woolf, Agatha Christie and Tom Stoppard!

  2. Josh, I am most interested in your book. I too read Classics at Oxford, having been taught Latin and Greek by Belinda Dennis at St Mary’s Grammar School (then became Haydon Comprehensive) in the 1970s. She was inspirational and I continue to feel her positive effect in my life and in my work. I am most interested to hear what you have found out about her. I have pledged.

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