Category Archives: collecting


Whether a borrower or a lender to be…

I usually take a look at Twitter while I eat lunch and today this little gem, retweeted by publishing newsletter Shelf Awareness, caught my eye:


My first thought was, “Josh Malina is nicer than me.”

Now, in some ways I’m happy to lend books. If I loved a book, I want my friends to read it so that they can love it too – or so that we can argue about why we thought it was so good/not so good. Here in the DGLM office we often borrow books back and forth (DVDs too – in fact I currently have Lauren’s Sports Night DVDs, featuring the aforementioned Josh Malina – but I digress.) Books, staplers, post-its, everything is fair game in the office, right? Just don’t touch my peanut butter.

But sometimes I really, really love a book in a way that’s linked to a specific physical copy of a book. And then I’m verrrrrry reluctant to lend it out. Sometimes because I’ve scribbled notes all over it. Sometimes because I got it at an author event and it has a special inscription or signature. And sometimes, nonsensically, I loved the book so much that I want to hold on to the exact physical object that I held in my hands while I read it. The book is a physical symbol of that intangible and cherished reading experience.

I know this horcrux-like attitude doesn’t fit very nicely into the digital age. But the lending of books is a beloved part of the reading experience that hasn’t transitioned quite as easily to the e-books experience. It’s getting easier and easier to do it impersonally, whether you use the Kindle Lending Library, your city library, or subscription services like Oyster. It’s not so easy, however, for passionate readers to share e-books with each other like they could do with paperbacks – shared digital books often require both readers to use the same device or service, and usually come with time limits.

This is this kind of digital growing pain that has as much potential for excitement as for inconvenience. Think of the amazing new borrowing inventions that lie just around the corner! In the meantime, I’ll be separating my books into two categories: “Go Ahead, You’re Gonna Love It” and “Do Not Touch My Precious.”

Are you a free spirit when it comes to lending your books, or do you have precious no-touch copies like me?

 If you’re an e-book reader, what are your suggestions for improving options for e-book borrowing?  


I swear, I don’t have a problem!

Since moving is basically my life right now, I can’t help but write about it again. Finding a new apartment, it figures, is just the beginning. The relief only lasts for a little while before you turn around and see the vast accumulation of things you own. Where did all of this stuff come from? At least, that’s what I was thinking just the other night as my roommate and I were trying to devise ingenious plans for packing up and moving everything we own. Furniture? Simple. Clothes? That’s what suitcases are for.

All of this seemed reasonable, until I turned around again and was faced with the bookshelf. And the books stacked next to it. And the ones stacked in front of it. I looked in the kitchen and there was the pile of cookbooks on the radiator. Slowly, with suspicion, I walked into my room and saw the scattered jumble of books next to my dresser and on my nightstand. Same in the other bedroom. Panic. We don’t have enough boxes for this! There might not be enough boxes in all of Brooklyn for this! When did we turn into book hoarders?

Of course, I suppose, books aren’t the worst things we could be hoarding. Better than, say, perishable food or cats, and I suppose we don’t have a serious problem (yet), but it’s still overwhelming. I really don’t want to get rid of any of my books, despite that I know I’ll never read some of them again! As Matt Paxton, one of Jane’s clients and host of the A&E show Hoarders, writes in his book, The Secret Lives of Hoarders, there are many levels of hoarding, and I still think I’m safely below even level one. Which is a relief. I mean, come on, it’s books! There’s nothing wrong with having a lot of books! Surely some of you have similar problems in this particular area of hoarding and just for assurance that we don’t all yet need to be clinically diagnosed, maybe it’s best to check out this video from the expert himself:

Until it begins impeding on my daily life, I don’t think I’ll start worrying in seriousness, so I’ll just turn my focus now on accumulating boxes (and boxes. And boxes) in which to pack up the masses of reading material we’ve acquired over the years. If anyone is around on moving day, please don’t hesitate to help out—because after packing, comes actual transportation and then the most dreaded of all—unpacking…


BE At BEA (Too much?)

I thought I’d briefly add my own thoughts John’s post about BEA earlier today.  As it was my very first time at BookExpo, I will admit that it was a lot to take in—but in a good way. The crowds were a tight squeeze at times, the mood was good, and I can’t say no to free stuff! Easily one of the best parts of BEA is collecting the many galley copies publishers give out. By the end of our perusal, I was sure my shoulder muscles were all but destroyed from carrying my treasure, and I found myself blithely forgetting about the long walk I faced from 11th Avenue back to civilization (or the nearest subway).

Having made it back alive from the convention, I know it will be exciting to dive into the new and unfinished novels I collected, and then hopefully watch some go on to fabulous sales and notoriety.

Will any of our readers out there be attending BEA this year? If so, what books or events are you looking forward to?


Judging the Reader by His Bookshelf

Anyone catch Geoff Nicholson’s piece in the New York Times about his bookshelves, and whether having books on display by Hitler and Ann Coulter makes him a target for FBI profiling or suggests that he’s a right-wing nut? It’s pretty amusing and insightful, though I did wonder if Nicholson’s wide-ranging collection ever ran into the practical limitations of a cramped New York apartment—and if so, did Hitler and Coulter make the cut?

For the first fifteen years of my post-college life, I was always lucky enough to have room for books in my studio and one-bedroom apartments. Granted, as an editor I could keep all of my “work” books in the office and not surrender shelf space at home, but even when my wife and I combined our collections, we had the space to keep everything on our shelves. We had some questionable things up there in terms of profiling (William Burroughs, Nietzsche, Marx) as well as taste (a really bad bio of Courtney Love), but like Nicholson I filed them under “curiosity, irony, guilty pleasure and the desire to understand the enemy (not to mention free review copies)”.

And then we had the baby. Almost overnight, well-organized bookcases gave way to unsightly piles on desks and dressers as the shelf space in Henry’s room was taken over by baby supplies. By the time Henry turned 18 months, we’d been reduced to one full bookcase in our bedroom and the upper halves of two cases in his room. With a heavy heart, we knew the time had come—we had to get rid of some books.

So, what got sent to Goodwill? First and foremost, paperbacks, especially novels, plus classics like Huck Finn we figured Henry would probably acquire at some point on his own. Some decisions were no-brainers (so long, Courtney!), some were heart wrenching (lots of college books). When it came to the controversial ones, they ended up as keepers, though for less-than-ideological reasons. Both the Burroughs and Nietzsche I’d had since high school, and as for Marx—well, is that really considered dangerous anymore?

However, now that I think about it, we also held onto Aleister Crowely and Helter Skelter—more high school reading—which taken together could put the FBI on notice… Well, let’s just hope the Feds read the part of Nicholson’s article about how a criminal’s reading list can’t explain or predict his actions!


Books are Heavy

In the wake of moving house, which included a ridiculous number of books that prompted even our movers to complain, the notion of a digital library becomes increasingly appealing. True, books are beautiful, tactile and each, in addition to its actual content, is a touchstone of memory and experience, but after slitting open dozens of cartons, I’m feeling less sentimental.

In addition, I never quite realized the degree to which arranging books can prove psychologically fraught. In our new house, my husband gave one of his bookshelves to my preschool-aged son. The resulting scarcity in shelf space has prompted a kind of Malthusian struggle; in this overpopulated world, which books should get pride of place? Should we (finally) attempt to organize by subject area? Should the Wilkie Collins novels that were the subject of my grad school papers be relegated to boxes in the basement? (!) Can we donate still more to Goodwill? We’ve already parted with a small library’s worth of volumes. Yes, we could get yet another bookshelf. Likely we will. But this is not a long term solution, especially when I find that I get stroppy when I suspect that I am culling more books than my husband, who as a publishing professional, an academic and a packrat is thrice-afflicted. So gentle readers, in houses where there is more than one bibliophile, where marriage/cohabitation also involves the union of two book collections, and assuming that you do not possess a soaring multi-floored library that Rachel hankered after earlier this month, what did you do? Must we digitize in the name of conjugal harmony, easier moves, and effortless organization? Is the virtual library the answer, not only for the Vatican Library (check out this New Yorker article) but my own, just slightly less palatial, house?


Holy Books and Dating

by Rachel

Back in May, I mentioned attempting to read Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland, simply because the President was reading it. I tend to be nosey and want to know what kind of book choices public figures make. So, it’s no surprise that I was interested to take a peek at the Vatican’s Secret Archives, as posted in The Guardian. Manuscripts and publications collected for more than 800 years lie within the 85 kilometers of shelving in this vault.

I thought the article on the Vatican’s archives was the most fascinating story of the week, until I saw this Wall Street Journal article by Hannah Seligson, on dating websites catering towards book lovers. For one, I don’t think partner compatibility can be based on book choices. Sure, it certainly shows you have a common area of interest if your favorite genre is sci-fi and so is your partner’s, but does this translate to a personality match also? I’m not so sure; I think a dating site for book lovers is a unique endeavor, but I think it takes a lot more than the same taste in books for compatibility.

What do you think? Do you and your partner, or friends, share the same taste in books?


A shelf of firsts

by Rachel

Reading Ralph Gardner Jr’s Wall Street Journal article on first editions brought back a memory of when I was younger. I remember my Grandfather’s office being crowded by shelves of antiques, souvenirs from abroad, and of course – books! There was a particular bookshelf filled with random books on world history, genealogy, and sports (in fact, there were too many books on cricket for my liking. No one really needs to know so much about that sport, do they?). In a smaller bookcase in the corner of the room, there was a shelf dedicated to first editions. And of course, because my Grandfather treasured these books, they were kept on the highest shelf where grandchildren were unable to reach!

I don’t own any first editions, but because of my Grandfather’s love of them, I’m always interested to know the titles people own, and whether or not they went out of their way to find them, or if the books were simply passed down through the years.

So, if you’re big on first editions, care to share what titles you own and how you acquired them? If not, do you have a first edition title you’d pay a high price for?