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Let’s Talk Bookish Week Of 1.20.23: Collecting Books

TODAY, I taught some small boys how to play TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge, and was afforded the privilage of claiming Donatello as my permaturtle as long as I allowed that Oldest Boy was, now and forever, The Red One. This, to me, is a fair trade; Raph may be cool but rude, but Donny—as we know—does machines, and you’re not making much in the way of pizza without those, let alone a Turtle-Truck, Sewer-Skimmer, or some kind of cyber-sai for my upcoming cyberpunk RPG campaign TMNT: (Unix) Shell On Earth.


Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme created by Rukky @ Eternity Books
and hosted by Aria @ Book Nook Bits where we discuss various topics and share our opinions.

Prompts: Do you enjoy collecting books? Do you feel like physical books are overpriced? Do you buy books after you’ve read them to add to your collection? Do you buy special edition collector sets? How invested are you in your book collection? 


(Obligatory reminder to subscribe to my once-monthly newsletter here, which rounds up everything I wrote in the preceding month, grants access to a curated members-only Spotify playlist, and includes a piece of exclusive bonus collectible content I will NEVER repost anywhere else, ever!)


Do you enjoy collecting books?

EXHIBIT ONE, HONORABLE MOTHERFUCKERS:

Obviously, honorable motherfuckers, that’s not actually a huge collection in the context of the audience this question is aimed at; also I think even the most generous descriptivist would struggle to accept classifying Tarot decks as ‘books’, to say nothing of the stuffies.
Like many, I used to have a collection in the low-hundreds when I was young and financially unburdened and making that Blockbuster money (this is a joke, I made minimum wage, I was just wildly irresponsible), and then I moved and guess what, those shits are heavy and take up way more space than you think they do, and when the dust settles you realize that you’ll never re-read most of them, if you read them in the first place, and that you no longer need to own every book in the world. Just most of them! Maybe it’s a personality thing, maybe it’s part of growing up, maybe it’s a lot of things.
And if I’m honest, I was slow to accept ebooks and digital comics, but once I did so I went whole hog, because it turns out that buying ‘click now’ doesn’t register as spending money in my brain the way handing over cash for a physical book does! THAT IS A BAD THING!

(Also yes, that’s the pommel and crossguard of Andúril, The Flame Of The West, behind the bookcase on the right; Arizona is a stand-your-ground state, and that includes against Nazgûl.)


Do you buy books after you’ve read them to add to your collection?

Only rarely, when they’re special to me, or I especially want to support the author, or the edition is especially sexy; the eagle-eyed reader will spot above the 35th-anniversary edition of A Confederacy Of Dunces, the Absolute Sandman collection, the signed edition of Kate Beaton’s Ducks: Two Years In The Oil Sands that was only available through Drawn & Quarterly, Jeff VanderMeer’s Area X omnibus (and the unpictured Ambergris Trilogy omnibus, lost the shelf-space battle in favor of my individual copies of City Of Saints And Madmen, Shriek: An Afterword, and Finch). Oh! Also, the first-edition paperpacks of Redwall and Mossflower, because those covers are gorgeous:

The careful reader/looker might notice that those shelves, with the exceptions of the comics, records, and RPG books, aren’t organized alphabetically or by any other readily apparent metric, and that is because they are arranged chronologically, in order of when I first read them! I stole this from High Fidelity, which I have neither seen or read, and do not intend to. It does unfortunately make for a more visually chaotic collection, but in this order they’re the pages of my life and so my bookcase becomes a mirror when I stand in front of it, the past made physical, the future ready to hold so much more.


Do you buy special edition collector sets or editions?

I BELIEVE I KINDA JUST ANSWERED THIS QUESTION, COUNSELOR, but yes, like you can see The Complete Calvin And Hobbes, the Black Hammer Library Editions, The Annotated American Gods, the Pogo Vols. 1 & 2 boxed-set, and the aforementioned Absolute Sandman. I find it pretty hard to justify buying multiple copies of the same book for myself just to have them though, with a few non-standard exceptions such as the Spanish copy of Cannery Row, German Dresden Files, and German and Esperanto Hobbit. The thing is, sexy special editions are super cool and luxe and great to have, but they’re rarely very easy or fun to read; as Neil Gaiman said in the afterward to the ninth volume of The Sandman: “It’s the heaviest of all these volumes, and thus, in hardback at least, could undoubtedly be used to stun a burglar; which has always been my definition of real art.”, and every one of the Absolutes weighs a good three or four of those. So if I’ve got a special edition, it’s because it’s a mighty important book to me, though I still can’t bring myself to buy that two-volume leatherbound Way Of Kings.


How invested are you in your book collection?

Fairly, in a couple of ways. They serve their totemic purpose—this is A Thing That’s Important To Me, and having it makes me feel safe and rooted in my sense of self—but I also straight-up keep them as a ready source of bigger-end-of-small cash; if ever something were to happen and I truly, desperately needed I dunno, MAYBE a couple hundred bucks max (most of that being those Absolute Sandmans and RPG hardcovers) I could bundle up my collection and head to the nearest Half Price Books. I truly could not tell you why I have this mindset, except that maybe the world (and all of our employment) has gotten a lot less stable than it used to be, and not that a couple hundred dollarbucks would really do much if my life fell out from under me, but it never hurts to have something you can liquidate at need, and this is what my generation has instead of stocks and goblets made from the gilded skulls of financial advisers who failed us, whose fates are whispered in the breakroom at H&R Block.


NOW IF YOU’LL EXCUSE ME, a man can only revive his co-players with steaming, delicious pizza so many times without developing a serious jones—A CASEY JONES, IF YOU WILL—that demands to be satisfied, so I am off to set the Domino’s in motion and also maybe some cinnamon rollsing.

–The Bageler


I don’t have a simple answer
But I know that I could answer
To something better

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