For some, it's the allure of a striking book cover, the feel of turning paper, and the musty smell of the pages.
Book lovers will also admit to a longing for escapism and to learn something new, to understand different perspectives, find solace and, above all, be entertained.
Secondhand book shops provide all that – and much more.
They offer not only thousands of wonderful books but couches with colourful throws, like-minded company and sometimes even a cat.
The good news is, books are not dying out.
Despite myriad digital options, from eBooks, to iPads and tablets, reading proper books is more popular than ever.
A 2019 report by Read NZ, Reading in a Digital Age, found online reading is displacing traditional reading, but is not replacing it.
Most readers use both formats every week.
In fact, the growth of online sources may be helping to cultivate a love of reading.
One in three participants in the study said they were reading more now than ever before, because of the availability of online content and the ease of switching between materials.
Covid-19 has further boosted the popularity of books, with many stores reporting a resurgence in reading.
Booksellers NZ chief executive Dan Slevin said its members — owners of new and second-hand bookstores — are doing well, and there has been "a big trend towards books".
"People are getting turned off from their screens, as screens tend to be deliverers of bad news and anxiety.
"We want to stay up to date, but if you want to calm down and detach from all that stress, books are a brilliant way to do it.
"Sitting down with a cup of tea and a book is a brilliant way to step back from the world."
Village Books in Waipapa
With her lifelong love of books and former job as a librarian Kaye Neely was always destined to run her own second-hand book shop.
Neely opened Village Books in Waipapa in 2010 – but before had a colourful career in New Zealand and overseas libraries meeting and hosting legendary children's authors Margaret Mahy, Joy Cowley and Roald Dahl.
Of meeting Dahl in London in her early 20s, she recalls a man who, though not quite prickly, was "not really a people person".
Mahy stayed at her Waikato farmhouse while in town for a conference, and she also enjoyed dinner with Cowley, one of New Zealand's most prolific fiction writers for children and adults.
Neely also remembers meeting English authors Leon Garfield and Edward Blishen, along ith Polish-British author and illustrator Jan Michal Pienkowski.
She credits growing up in rural New Zealand for her love of reading.
When her mum bought a stationery shop with a small library, she really began to find her niche.
Holidays were spent working behind the counter and shelving books.
After high school, when she was undecided what career path to take, her dad pointed her in the right direction.
"Dad was a teacher in Te Awamutu and used to get books from the national library.
"He took me to Hamilton public library but there were no vacancies so we went to the country library. They were taking on trainees. I'd found my happy place."
Years later, after moving to Kerikeri, Neely asked the local second-hand book shop owner if she could help.
"I used to tidy shelves for him, and he used to talk about retiring.
"Even though he later changed his mind, it got me thinking I could do something, and I started looking for premises."
Since opening Village Books 11 years ago, Neely has grown an eclectic collection of books, mostly brought in by locals.
She has found many treasures among their pages: a pressed four-leaf clover, Golden Kiwi tickets and bus tickets, and a desecrated marijuana leaf "which was so old I doubt whether it had any active ingredients left".
A book containing $75 she returned to its rightful owner.
Neely likes that second-hand book shops embrace "the unknown" and offer the opportunity of finding something special.
A prolific reader, she will often take on recommendations from customers and is also keen to make suggestions.
But running a book shop doesn't leave much time for reading, which she now confines to the evenings.
"Despite what people think we don't sit around reading all day. Though that would be nice."
Molly's Little Bookshop in Kerikeri
Wild horses couldn't drag Kevin Dowley from his spot at Molly's Little Bookshop.
He loves everything about his job as the owner of the Kerikeri secondhand store named after the former owner's scruffy little dog.
There's the view of the cobblestone courtyard directly outside where hungry shoppers frequent the Village Cafe, Curry King Thai and Indian and Cafe Jerusalem.
And there are hundreds and thousands of books, all packed neatly into his cosy shop.
"It's like anyone who finds something they love; it doesn't become a job if you enjoy doing it," he said.
"It's the perfect job.
"When the cafe is busy, there's a nice hum."
Originally from London, Dowley has always had a background in books, so it was a "natural progression" for him to end up owning a shop.
After he left school he got involved in the book-selling business, first working for Hatchards in Piccadilly, London's oldest book shop, which was established in 1797 by publisher and anti-slavery campaigner John Hatchard.
Next Dowley worked at the Pan Bookshop in Chelsea.
After moving to New Zealand in 1994, he landed a job at Auckland University Bookshop before he became a book buyer for Books and More in the Kerikeri Post Shop.
Taking over Molly's was pure serendipity.
"I wandered in here one day to have a look and I was talking to another customer who said to me 'you should buy this place'.
"That morning the owner had a note on the desk saying 'business for sale'.
"I rushed home and told my wife and she said let's do it."
Buying the bookshop four years ago was a dream come true for Dowley, who "loves the smell of musty books in the morning".
He also admires the quote by French author Andre Maurois who said: "In literature as in love, we are astonished at what is chosen by others".
He too is a prolific reader, getting through a couple of books a week.
His house is full of them; one room is filled entirely with bookshelves, books are stacked in the hallway and living room, and in another bookcase in the bedroom.
"When we bought this place, we said we'd go through our books at home and have a weed out and bring them into the shop.
"Of course, the exact opposite happened, and quite often I end up taking half a dozen home."
The second-hand shop is an opportunity to sell a large range of books rather than just new titles, and pre-loved books are more interesting, he said.
Dowley simply loves his job; the conversations with customers, and being surrounded by books.
"I like the smell of them and the look of them.
"Buying this place was one of the best things I've ever done.
"This is just heaven."
Piggery Secondhand Book Shop in Whangārei
The stars aligned to give Chloe Clennell the gentle push she needed to run her own book shop.
Clennell had already been working in the Piggery Secondhand book shop in central Whangārei as a shop assistant for eight years when the owner decided to sell.
That was 14 years ago, around the same time she inherited money from her mother.
The opportunity was there and she grabbed it with both hands.
"The customers are wonderful," she said.
"I've always been a reader, and recommending books and helping people find the books they're after is very rewarding."
The Piggery began life in a former piggery outhouse at Whangārei Heads, and the owners used it as storage to hold extra books from their famous Hard to Find Books in Onehunga.
The store was officially opened in Rathbone St and came to rest in Walton St - formerly a garden centre and motorcycle mechanic workshop - in the mid 1990s.
When it changed hands in 2007, Clennell was keen to keep its name.
Today the shelves are bulging with paperbacks and hardbacks of every genre.
The shop has held a stash of rare books over the years, including The South Pole Expedition, a scarce first edition of Roald Amundsen's account of his 1912 polar exploration, which sold for $1200.
"There is a huge variety of books on every subject coming into the shop every day," said Clennell.
"We could get true crime come through, wonderful novels, or chemistry. It's fantastic."
Clennell has welcomed many Northland authors into her shop, and has held book launches to support local authors.
Children's author Gary Cross has popped in for a browse, and when Thor star Chris Hemsworth was spotted in the shop in 2016 it made headlines in the Northern Advocate.
People are reading more than ever these days, Clennell believes.
Even when Covid-19 threatened the livelihoods of small businesses, she has remained busy.
After the lockdown people realised the value of having plenty of books in the house, and many rediscovered the joy of reading.
"A lot of people spend time at work in front of a screen, and due to Covid, people are spending more time face timing and zooming.
"People desperately want to get away from that if they can.
"Books are so nice to spend time with.
"You can't have a page-turner if you're swiping a screen."
Working in a second-hand book shop is never a chore for Clennell, even after more than two decades.
"It brings you in contact with interesting people and books, and that's more than enough for me.
"I love it. I haven't lost any enthusiasm for my job in all the 22 years I've been here.
"It's a wonderful place to be."
Kaye from Village Books
• The Absolute Book by Elizabeth Knox
• Sing to Me Dreamer by Shonagh Koea
• People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
• The Haunting by Margaret Mahy
• American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Kevin from Molly's Little Bookshop
• Hearts Invisible Furies by John Boyne
• In a Fishbone Church by Catherine Chigley
• Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
• The Sharpe series by Bernard Cornwell
• The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Chloe from The Piggery Secondhand Book Shop
• The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
• Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Trilogy) by Laini Taylor
• Past Caring by Robert Goddard
• Northern Lights by Philip Pullman
• Grove of Eagles by Winston Graham