As many romance readers do, I tend to buy quite a number of my romances second-hand. The shape they arrive in can vary dramatically. Now I read most of by books in bed, which means I am finicky about anything that might have gotten stuck to the books’ covers and between their pages. So any used book that arrives at Chez Horstmann has to undergo the following procedure: (a) being entered in my computer databases, (b) gentle cleaning of the covers with a damp cloth, (c) repairing of edges and loose pages with bookbinders’ glue, (d) removal of stickers or residue of stickers (with solvent that smells so nasty that I only do this work standing by the open window), and (e) removal of food, hairs and other stuff that has been gotten stuck between the pages (I once got a book which had dozens of long grey hairs on each page for about 50 pages. Yuck!). Fortunately, I do not came across nasty stuff exclusively: I left the single pressed violet I found, because it was so romantic.

With most books, I am fine after that. But there’s one evil I can’t fight this way: Smoke. Now I accept every smoker’s right to smoke while reading a book and then selling it online unconditionally – I just wish those books wouldn’t end up with me. I find it impossibly to enjoy a book while whafts of old smoke rise into your face with each page I turn. And it is extremely difficult to get rid of the smoke.

While I was still living in my old flat, I used to put such a book on the radiator, open pages turned down, and then I would turn a couple of pages each day until most of the smell was gone. Brutal, but effective. These days, I have floor heating. I have put my greatly anticipated, but terribly smelly copy of Elizabeth Elliott’s The Warlord on the towel radiator in the bathroom, but even that is not as hot as my old radiators were, and it takes very long to de-smoke even a single page.

Have you any suggestions how to get rid of smoke in used books? What bothers you most about the state of second-hand books that you buy? Anything really horrible (or any great treasures) you’ve ever found in one of them?