Changing The World One Book At A Time With The Secondhand Bookshelf

If you’re anything like me, there is nothing better than a book subscription box! There are a lot of small businesses out there doing really inspiring and powerful things when it comes to books and one of them is The Secondhand Bookshelf. 

The Secondhand Bookshelf allows our old books to have a new lease of life by providing one-off book subscription boxes that can be ordered once every quarter. Each box contains a preloved secondhand book, which has either been donated by a fellow book lover or picked up in a local charity shop. Each box also includes some beautiful sustainable items which have been handmade with love by talented local artists. 

The Secondhand Bookshelf also specialises in recycled stationery, ethical bookish gifts and books about slow living and mindfulness, so you can be sure that all your bookish needs are met in a sustainable manner. 

They also offer you the chance to have a blind date with a pre-loved secondhand book in which a novel will be hand-wrapped with some intriguing clues on what the book is about featured on the front! All of these items are available on their website, so please do go and check out what is on offer! 

This fabulous business allows those who want to ensure they are making a positive impact on the planet to take that initial step, one book at a time. I had the opportunity to discuss everything secondhand books and blind dates with the owner, Giv…

What inspired you to create The Secondhand Bookshelf? 

The short answer: my passion for books and my love for purchasing things secondhand. 

The slightly longer story: It was a complete ‘spur-of-the-moment’ and ‘why-on-earth-have-I-not-done-this-before kind of decision. I work in the e-commerce department of a company that sells calendars, stationery and gift and while that role is so much fun, I’ve always toyed with the idea of having something that is completely my own. I have always loved connecting with people online and bringing them closer to the products they love, but I did question myself a lot and wondered what I could bring to the table that is different to what’s already out there.

During the last year, I watched a colleague pack up her things and go self-employed, and I thought, there has to be something similar that I can do, too! I wasn’t quite as bold as her and still work full-time next to the Secondhand Bookshelf, but it made me think about the things I could possibly achieve. The idea of being in charge of my very own online shop kept growing on me and in the end, I simply couldn’t resist!

I have always been passionate about books and reading, and so, it seemed natural to strive for a product that would incorporate that! I loved the idea of book subscription boxes but often felt that a lot of the gift merchandise included would only lie around and gather dust (at least in my case!). I loved the idea of book blind dates and the surprising and joyous effect they can have on others, and I am a passionate advocate for buying things secondhand, so it just seemed to make sense to combine these aspects! I thought I can’t be the only one that enjoys these things, but I also hadn’t seen something like that around, so I felt like I was entering a niche not many had explored yet.

So, all in all, the Secondhand Bookshelf was born out of the idea to create something meaningful. Something that lets others remember how important it is to slow down and take a minute for themselves in this hectic and fast world. And something that emphasises the small changes we can make and shows that living a greener life can be simpler than we think.

Why is it important to you that all your products are ethical and sustainable? 

This will sound rather extreme in the first moment, but there is only one planet we can currently live on and we should, therefore, take care of it as best as we possibly can. 

We already consume so much, and whether we like it or not, that is to some degree hurting the environment and the people around us (think fast fashion, etc.). Unfortunately, no product can ever be 100% ethical or sustainable – that’s simply not possible. The only ethical or sustainable product there is, is the one you didn’t buy in the first place.

However, by choosing to only purchase more ethical and more sustainable items, we’re trying to show that there are other options out there, that you maybe weren’t even aware of. When you do decide that you need a new bookmark, for example, we want you to consider the impact this will have on the environment and the workers who produce the products and so on.

What makes The Secondhand Bookshelf book subscription box unique? 

The most distinctive aspect is probably that we choose secondhand books rather than brand new books. Why should millions of books go to waste, when they could offer someone else the pleasure you experienced when you read that book for the first time? Also, new books can be quite expensive, and some people simply may not be able to afford much, so secondhand books offer an accessible way to enjoy literature nevertheless.

And then when we think of traditional book boxes, it is common that each theme or release features the same book and gifts. At the Secondhand Bookshelf, however, each book is tailored to the person the box is for, making it a truly unique experience every time. You won’t know which book you will be receiving and also, you will be the only person receiving that title in particular.

I think what else makes the Secondhand Bookshelf unique is how closely we work with local makers and small businesses. As a new and small business ourselves, we know what it can mean to support each person involved in a company, brand or business. And what really makes us happy is when we know that our order might cause someone to perform a little happy dance!

What genre of books do you offer? 

Everything and anything! We don’t limit the choice we offer but do ask customers to give us some ideas regarding their preferences when they place their order. We ask for things like favourite genres and authors to get an idea of who we’re choosing a book for, and in 99% of the cases, we always find something that that person will like and enjoy! 

Our choice of books is also strongly dependent on the variety available in the charity shops, as this is where we mainly shop for secondhand books! At this point, I would also like to add, if you do have any books that you would like to give a new home, please get in touch – we’re always on the lookout for pre-loved books and rely on donations and our charity shop finds to offer the best secondhand books available.

I love your Meet The Maker feature on your website, how do you pick the local artists you work with? 

Thank you so much! It was incredibly important for us, not just to include small businesses in the subscription boxes, but to also show who is actually responsible for packing your orders and replying to your messages. It’s been so much fun to talk to different makers and to hear their stories!

At first, we try to think of products that match the season we’re planning for and that we would like to feature in the box. Then we start to cast out the net and search for local businesses and makers that produce the things we are looking for, and that involves lots of browsing on Etsy! Often, we also stumble upon makers while browsing social media and looking for inspiration. The internet is a great place full of wonderful makers if you know where and what to look for!

Do you have any plans to launch other bookish gifts? 

We choose selected products from our boxes to be featured in the shop, too, but at the moment we mainly focus on the single book blind dates and subscription boxes. 

One thing we are looking at, however, is making an actual subscription service available. This may seem a little confusing, but at the moment, we sell the boxes on a one-off purchase basis as we weren’t sure how popular this idea would be. In the future (soon, fingers crossed!) we would love to offer an array of subscription options ranging from 3 to 12-months.

We’re always open for new ideas, so please do get in touch at shop@theliterarytraveller.co.uk if you would like to work with us.

The Secondhand Bookshelf is dedicated to making vital changes in the way we shop and consume products, and if this is something you are also passionate about, be sure to check them out on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!

For all my lovely followers, Giv has kindly created a coupon code for us, which ensures 10% off any order over £25 (excluding sale items)! The code is STUCKINTHEBOOK10 so be sure to check out what they have to offer! I received my first box today and I couldn’t be more happier with all the beautiful gifts inside, and my secondhand book was one I’ve been wanting to read for SO long! You do not want to miss out on this little treat to yourself!

Books To Help You Kickstart Your Love of Running

Ahhh running. Some of us love it, some of us loathe it. Some of us have never even tried it. I can relate to you all. There was a time a few years ago when running was my only exercise and I became OBSESSED with going for an evening run after a full day of studying. It gave me that moment to turn my brain off and let my legs take me on a little journey around the block. Now I think about it, running (or any type of exercise really) is a great way to save your mental health.

Some of you may have been using your 1 hour outside the house to find your love of running. Maybe some of you have never run before lockdown and now you have all the gear; the trainers, the phone armband, the watch, the tracking apps etc.

So if you are currently loving your new hobby or you perhaps need a little push to get motivated again, here are my best picks of books about running that I have thoroughly enjoyed. Jog On and Running Like A Girl have especially helped me, but hopefully there will be some books here that will help you too.

Jog On: How Running Saved My Life – Bella Mackie

Divorced and struggling with deep-rooted mental health problems, Bella Mackie explains, with hilarious honesty, how she managed to get her life back by pulling on a pair of trainers and going for a run.

What I love about this book is that Bella tells the story of someone who has never run before and it is refreshing to see how she deals with the high and lows of being a ‘runner’.

Running Like A Girl – Alexandra Heminsley

Defeated by gyms and bored of yoga, Alexandra Heminsley decided to go for a run. Six years later, she has run five marathons in two continents. But, as her dad says, you run with your head as much as with your legs. So, while this is a book about running, it’s not just about running.

This book highlights that although there may be some days when the world is against you, you can still achieve more than you ever thought possible if you have the right mindset.

Born To Run – Christopher McDougall

McDougall tells this story while asking what the secrets are to being an incredible runner. Travelling to labs at Harvard, Nike, and elsewhere, he comes across an incredible cast of characters that will demonstrate the strength of the human body.

At the heart of this book lies a story about a mysterious tribe of Mexican Indians, the Tarahumara, who live quietly in canyons and are reputed to be the best distance runners in the world. McDougall explores their secrets, as well as getting involved in a 50-mile run!

Running With Kenyans – Adharanand Finn

After years of watching Kenyan athletes win the world’s biggest long-distance races, Runner’s World contributor Adharanand Finn set out to discover what it was that made them so fast – and to see if he could keep up.

Packing up his family, he moved to the running capital of the world, and started investigating. Was it running barefoot to school, the food, the altitude, or something else? I love this book because it explores a whole different culture and way of life, in which running is a vital element.

Epic Runs of The World – Lonely Planet

This book is basically a runner’s companion. It features 50 of the world’s greatest running routes – from short city runs to must-do marathons, as well as courses around the globe for runners of all abilities.

There was a time where I would have loved to travel the world to participate in running events, and this book allows me to do so from the comfort of my own home. And the pictures inside are MINDBLOWING!

Just as an end note, most of these authors have also written additional books about running and sport, so if you read one of these and enjoy it, make sure you see what other books they have to offer too!

Happy running!

Empowering Women Through Literature With Women’s Writes

Sometimes in life, you come across certain people and businesses doing wonderful work to change society and you think to yourself, ‘how have I only just come across these people?’. Well, that’s exactly how I felt when I came across Women’s Writes, an online feminist book club established to promote women writers. 

Although Women’s Writes is so much more than just a book club. It is a community and you only have to follow them on social media to feel like you’re already part of something powerful. With live author events, book discussions, and a new subscription membership service, Women’s Writes is dedicated to celebrating the work of female authors. 

I had the privilege of talking to the founder and dedicated activist, Sophie McDermott, all about how Women’s Writes can empower women through literature: 

What inspired you to start Women’s Writes?

I did a History and Politics degree, and I was shocked at how throughout history, and now, women’s voices are being minimised, ignored and even erased. We were barely taught about women (something which we can also see in the school curriculum) and I was appalled.

When I went to work after graduating, I tried to use what I had learnt to support women in the companies I worked for and on the projects that I was involved in. However, I still found it hard to educate people, and I couldn’t figure out how to make feminism accessible to everyone.

I was actually on a coding course, and began playing around with ideas to build a website (which then became the first Women’s Writes website…it was awful!). I came up with the idea of an online book club with a feminist angle. I’m a member of a few book clubs and I love them all (and will still be part of them!) but they either weren’t explicitly feminist, or they were at inconvenient times or locations. So I thought a digital solution would help solve these issues.

I began describing the project to people and they would instantly become more interested in the concept of Women’s Writes than in my coding! So I did a bit more research and realised this could definitely be something that people wanted.

Then, COVID-19 happened, and I realised that this was going to be a really, really hard time for a lot of people. I decided to launch straight away and move quickly, because I knew this could be a place for connection, joy and new friendships, as well as a bit of relief from the scary and difficult environments.

Where are your author events held and why do you think it’s important to hold discussions with authors? 

All our author events are held virtually on Zoom, and Instagram Live. We also have written interviews which you can find on our blog. I think it is really important to speak to authors so we can learn more about the books from their perspective. Many of our books speak about feminist issues and we place a lot of emphasis on educating our members. 

I think that it’s not just the book itself we need to understand, but the experience and perspective of the person who wrote it; to understand more about the intentional message of the book. Whatever you take away from a book is amazing and author interviews help to aid that learning process.  

The second reason we hold author events is that we think it’s really important to increase exposure of authors and books in order to help promote them. If we have a platform, we need to use it to help elevate the voices of these women!

You have recently introduced a new subscription service, how does this work and what does it offer? 

I’m really excited about our brand new subscription service. There are several levels to the membership which are as follows:

The top-level is two books and online membership. This means every month you will receive two books, both contemporary new releases (one of which is our book of the month) and access to our exclusive member events and groups. 

The next level is one book and online membership. With this level, we will send you our book of the month and you will be given access to all our member events. 

The final level is the online membership only. This will give you access to all our member events. 

To explain a little bit further, we keep our book club meetings and author events almost always completely free. Our member events are slightly different, in that we invite professionals, from whatever topic we are discussing, to speak. 

So for example, our June book is Real Life Money: An Honest Guide by author Clare Seal. So the author event with Clare is open to everyone (via Instagram Live), but our exclusive member events include a session with a qualified Money Coach, a presentation from an Investment Manager and a presentation on pensions from Scottish Widows.

In addition, we have a Facebook group for members to connect and share books they’re reading, social media links, topics of interest and also a chance to vote for our chosen charity of the month.

Why is it necessary that you provide a platform for supporting female authors? 

I found out recently that over the last 20 years, just six women have won the Nobel Prize for Literature and the same is true of the Pulitzer Prize. The Booker Prize has been won by 31 men but only 16 women since it was established in 1969. 

When I found this information, I was truly shocked. In the 19th and 20th century, it was not uncommon for women to present their work under the pretence of being male in order to be taken seriously. 

Women, non-binary and trans persons have been shown to be overlooked again and again in the literary world, and it’s even worse if you are a woman of colour. 
It is the responsibility of those who can, to act and do.

You have a lot of things coming up for the future, what can members look forward to by being part of this amazing book club? 

Yes, I am honestly so excited about the future of Women’s Writes! We are working on lots of events, exclusive bookish and non-bookish discounts and partnerships with the brands we love, as well as working on a podcast! 

I’m really excited and if you aren’t able to join just yet, please do sign up for our mailing list to keep up to date on all our latest news!

To find out more about what this wonderful book club community can offer, I highly recommend that you follow them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and on their website! As Sophie describes, it is vital that platforms like Women’s Writes exist and we can do our bit by showing our support and getting involved! 

You can sign up to their brand new subscription service via this link, and I’m excited to offer you an exclusive 10% discount off any purchase by using the code INTHEBOOK10

Taking My First Steps to Fulfilment with Life Coach Emma

Most of you may have heard of life coaching or may even follow life coaching accounts on social media, but what really is it and how can it help you?

I think now is a better time than ever to spend some time on yourself. Never again may we all be given the opportunity to take some time off and re-evaluate our life goals. No doubt there has been times during lockdown (and maybe even beforehand) where you’ve felt like you have lost your sense of direction in life. I know first-hand what it feels like to go about doing the same routine every day and getting absolutely no happiness from my daily activities. 

So if you’re looking to locate that direction in your life, life coaching can provide that first step to fulfilment and finding happiness. Whether it’s simply a chat with a qualified coach or whether it’s taking part in different goal-orientated sessions, life coaching can be the light at the end of what may seem like a very long and dark tunnel. 

Emma Greenwood is a highly qualified and renowned transformation coach, who has started her journey in helping others to change their life direction through visualising how they want their future to look like. I am very lucky to call this wonderful mother of four and successful businesswoman one of my friends and I caught up with her to discuss her new venture: 

What made you go into life coaching? 

I just felt I had a calling to help people and for a long time, I had no direction in how to do that. My day job was as a beautician and we all know that our deepest secrets stay in the salon when we leave. I suddenly found myself surrounded by clients who needed genuine help, not like what to wear on a first date, but raw stuff. I found myself coaching them, mostly on self-worth, but also offering literature and programs to try. I had people showing up because their friends told them about me, and not just my work but to be around me as a person. I gave them hope. I shared my own story so they knew they weren’t alone and most often, I was just somebody who listened.

I began to read more, seeking my own help at a point of frustration. All the self-help books tell you what you need to do, but none of them describe how. I really enjoyed the books by Louise Hay and her amazing story, along with Rebecca Campbell who writes about how we need to remember a time when women were sacred, its not about rising over men, just rising ourselves.

I met a lady at a Moon Circle, Gillian. She reminded me of my mums eldest sister; softly spoken and kind. We started meeting up and I started to pour so much into myself that on my last visit, she said she didn’t recognise me anymore. I had been carrying so much and suddenly I was lighter. She kept telling me I could help people, that I was passionate when delivering my message, but I still didn’t know how.

I knew I wanted to coach women. I wanted the message I had to be spread and I even looked into Midwifery with dreams to create a magical community, offering appointments on self-care and the importance of not losing your identity after a baby. I went to an open day and realised I would be delivering babies, which suddenly seemed like a huge responsibility I wasn’t prepared to do. There was fake blood coming from a birth simulator and even as a mother of four, I found it a bit gruesome! The other end of delivery is nothing like your own birth experience.

My best friend bought me a ticket for a talk on creating a new business, and I went along expecting nothing. I didn’t resonate with the girl who was hosting but her guest speaker really captivated me. She is a Business and Intuition Coach called Caroline. Her story was so different to mine, but I knew my story would help as much. The penny finally dropped and I went on to learn so much from Caroline over the next few months, including how to brand and market my business, as well as how to lead with my heart and speak my truth.

I signed up for a Diploma to be accredited as a Coach, which takes some time but I know it will take me to places and people where help is really needed.

What types of support do you offer? 

Coaching can cover any aspect of life, unlike counselling, the approach is that we are already whole and do not need fixing. Coaching is all about your mindset, from relationships with food, career changes, anxiety, self-esteem, family, relationships, money, intuition, healing from trauma and rebuilding self-confidence.

I specialise in creating a space for women who want to or have left a relationship which is not serving them, this could be abusive or simply just not amicable. They may feel defeated and deflated. My work empowers them to make a fresh start, address their finances, keep safe and start to love themselves as they want to receive love. I often get them to make a shopping list of character traits they want to see in a future partner rather than going for that “special buy”.

This all helps with finding their self-worth and really acknowledging the tremendous journey they are on. Although I have experience in setting up and running a successful business, running an organised home, money blocks and getting debt free is different. A lot of self-worth is the story you tell yourself about you, and it can, of course, always be rewritten.

What is a vision board and how can it help? 

I love the quote: “A man is but a product of his thoughts, what he thinks he becomes”. If you look at a board everyday and meditate over it, it will become a focus in your life.

The quote really highlights what are think about how every day is manifesting itself. If you start to make a vision board, I really suggest you do it with purpose and meaning. Begin with looking at different areas of your life and really think how you could improve them. For example you could add a photo of a big house with a pool. You know that to get there, you are going to have to put in some serious work. As you look at the house as an achievement, you will begin to understand what it will take to get there.

My vision board workshop which is available on my website, breaks everything down into simple, manageable sections for you to work out what you really want to see in your life, whether it is material or spiritual.

There are some free downloads available on your website, how can they help someone who wants to get started on changing their life? 

My favourite download at the moment has to be “Frazzled to Fabulous”. The lockdown has really turned everyone’s life upside down. Whether you are a parent or furloughed at home. Relationships are being forced into places they have never been, and sometimes they don’t seem to fit! We are desperately missing the busy life we had only months ago, which gave us chance to shy away from feelings. The workshop will encourage you to really think about self-care (whatever you consider that to be). Whether its managing time or accepting that something is making us angry.

There is also a special piece just for those on lockdown, “Finding Yourself In The Darkness”. With this workshop, you will find a series of questions which will lead you to find what has really made your heart feel light over the past few months, helping you focus on what you have discovered about yourself, what relationships you would like to improve or perhaps distance yourself from.

What would you say is the first step in self-discovery? 

The first step would always be to recognise what you are doing currently is not serving you. It’s important to really know that you deserve to live in happiness and nothing really has to be a pressurised situation if we create boundaries and ensure we stick to them.

What advice would you give to someone who is struggling right now?

Talk! Talk to someone who will listen and hold a space for you to feel safe. Journal, write down your good days (and your bad days too), your thoughts, ideas, secret desires and plans for the future.

If you are struggling right now, then know you are not alone! Life is a balance, its not all meant to be unicorns and rainbows. There are times of grief and pain, of sadness and anger. Love is unconditional and you can feel that towards yourself and others despite any other feelings. Love is always good, and is never the cause of pain. Loving yourself and giving yourself time is not stealing time from anyone else.

A trick I learnt is to imagine yourself as the sky, big and blue and vast. Your thoughts, feelings and emotions are clouds that pass through the sky, some stay longer than others. If you could remember this day a year ago, could you remember what you were worried or angry about? We can acknowledge these feelings and let them go, knowing they will eventually pass on by like clouds.

If you are in an abusive relationship and need help I strongly advise you contact Women’s Aid if and when you are ready. If you need to leave in an emergency, prepare a bag that you can keep somewhere with clothing and money if you can. Preparing to leave can often be a catalyst, but you can escape and live a life after the storm. My next blog post is based on how to be a good friend to someone who is suffering at home.

You can find Emma on Instagram and Facebook. If this sounds like something that you would be interested in, go check out the free downloads currently available on her website. Emma is also offering a free breakthrough call for those who wish to find out more. 

My New Book Club & What It Is All About

So I think lockdown is starting to get to me and I’m constantly on the lookout for new projects I can start. So behold, I have started a brand new book club called ‘Let’s Get Classical’!

I reached out to my lovely followers on Bookstagram on Twitter to ask if anyone would be interested in joining a book club dedicated to reading English classics. So many people got in touch saying that it would be something they would love to get involved in and equally, so many people explained to me that classics were something that terrified them and would need all the help they could get when it came to opening one up!

To be honest, I’m so glad that there are people out there who felt exactly the same as me! I’ve read some classics mainly due to my degree in English Literature but some I’ve always shied away from. So this is where the ‘Lets Get Classical’ Book Club comes in, with the hope that it will provide support for those who are reading/struggling with classics!

How Will It Work?

We will pick one classic to read each month, and I’m hoping to pick the reads with a theme/topic in mind. For instance with our first pick, the nominations were all books that were shorter than 200 pages to help ease ourselves in! I’m hoping for other themes, such as a Bronte, Austen and Dickens month, as well as a Gothic theme later in the year.

You will ALWAYS get the opportunity to cast your vote for which books you would like to read. Votes will be counted on the 1st of the month and our book will then be decided!

The book club will take place over on our private Facebook group, with that page dedicated to helping those of us who are struggling with the language or motivation to read. We will then discuss the book of the month on a particular day towards the end of the month via discussion posts, so keep your eyes peeled.

You will need to buy your own copy of the book but fear not, a lot of the classics are free to download on Kindle and other reading apps, as well as physical second-hand copies being cheap to buy too! We will always make sure that people are able to grab a copy of the month’s book, so all you need to do is read the book and be here to discuss!

I’m also going to be introducing lots of exciting things to come with the book club such as freebies and gifts! If you are like me and love to taking pictures of your books, I will also be running a competition each month, where I will pick my favourite picture of the month’s book club read and that person will receive a FREE copy of our next book club pick!

If this sounds like something you are interested in, then click here to join our group! I look forward to seeing your lovely faces over on our book club group and I can’t wait to get started!