Keeping a Sharpe lookout

Twice a year, the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre plays host to Lifeline Bookfest, featuring rows upon rows of secondhand books, all available at bargain prices.

Divided into three pricing tiers, it’ll probably come as no surprise to any of you that I make my home in the dollar section. Y’know, the cheapest one. It’s not that I don’t want the slightly shinier $2.50 books, or to venture into the fancy pants world of High Quality, but when twenty bucks equals twenty books, why would I go anywhere else?

(Top tip, if you head there on the last day, you can fill bags in the dollar section for a fiver. If I was smarter, I’d remember that when arranging Bookfest dates with my friends, but I never do.)

Going in with a shopping list – especially if you’re thinking about frequenting the dollar section – feels fairly futile. Newer books are likely to wind up in the High Quality section anyway, and with categories as broad as “FICTION” and “NON-FICTION”, it seems silly to go in with anything other than “IDK, I might buy a couple of books,” in mind.

But, because I don’t ever take my own advice (see above re: cheaper books the day after I went), during January’s event, I walked in with one singular goal: to find as many Sharpe books as I could.

Reader, I married him found two.

And now the real challenge begins.

Buoyed by this small victory, I made a vow to myself. I would hunt down every single Sharpe book and buy them – but only from op shops, and the occasional second hand store.

It doesn’t sound so mad, does it? Wander around a few charity shops, pick up a few (very popular and widely published) books. But when you consider that there are 21 Sharpe novels (plus a few short stories), the task seems a little bigger – not least because author Bernard Cornwell is, according to his website, STILL writing them.

Oh, hells bells. What have I gotten myself into? And why?

Well, the truth is, I bloody love these books. It goes without saying that I’m a bit of a history nerd and anything to do with Georgian Britain gets me very excited. I’ve dived in and out of the Sharpe series a lot over the last few years (as well as that of C.S. Forester’s nautical hero Hornblower), but never owned my own set. And what better way to gather a collection (however gradually) than by buying from charity shops? Bargain prices AND the money is going to a good cause – sounds like a win/win to me!

Below, you’ll find the extent of my task. They are listed chronologically in terms of story events, not by publication.

  1. Sharpe’s Tiger
  2. Sharpe’s Triumph
  3. Sharpe’s Fortress
  4. Sharpe’s Trafalgar
  5. Sharpe’s Prey
  6. Sharpe’s Rifles
  7. Sharpe’s Havoc
  8. Sharpe’s Eagle
  9. Sharpe’s Gold
  10. Sharpe’s Escape
  11. Sharpe’s Fury
  12. Sharpe’s Battle
  13. Sharpe’s Company
  14. Sharpe’s Sword
  15. Sharpe’s Enemy
  16. Sharpe’s Honor
  17. Sharpe’s Regiment
  18. Sharpe’s Siege
  19. Sharpe’s Revenge
  20. Sharpe’s Waterloo
  21. Sharpe’s Devil

Naturally, I’ve already ticked off the two I found at Bookfest last month, and I’ll be returning here to update as and when I find more.

Please note, I’ve not included Sharpe’s Christmas or Sharpe’s Skirmish (both of which contain short stories), or Sharpe’s Story, Cornwell’s account of how the series began. But, of course, if I see them, I’m bloody getting them!

I’ll be starting the hunt properly on Thursday, when I can leave the boyfriend doing the shopping and sneak off to the three (THREE!) op shops just down the road from us. Wish me luck!

Do you have any collections you’re keen to complete? Do you ever hunt down thrift shop book bargains? Let’s chat in the comments below!

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