Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Book-keeping

Someone asked how much money I spend on books:
2006: $84.27
2005: $92.00
Doesn't seem like much, does it? But that is the great thing about working in publishing-- I get a lot of books for free.
It was a perfect time to be answering this question, because I did some painting this weekend which allowed me to finally start unpacking my book collection last night-- 19 boxes so far, with several more to go! I was literally bouncing up and down with glee as I was shelving my books-- it felt like seeing old friends again. I really do love my books. In a way, it seems weird to have this kind of adoration for mere objects... but books are special.
I am not one of these people whose book lust means they just collect more and more of them so they can have as many as possible. I try to edit my collection and keep purging things that I might have enjoyed reading once but feel no need to keep. The things I do keep are what is really important to me-- I have a lot of beautiful art books, and certain authors and series that I collect, as well as quite a few reference books that occasionally come in handy when there is a real stumper on the Saturday crossword puzzle. I think a good book collection should be like the sauce you make in the pan after cooking a steak-- there are wonderful, rich flavors in it, and you boil them down til there is just a spoonful or two of sauce where all those flavors are concentrated and intense and delicious.
I probably don't open 90% of my books in any given year, but I love knowing that I can sit down and pore over a book of Jim Dine drawings, or transport myself back to childhood visits to my grandmother's house with an original 1930s Nancy Drew, or sink into a good long novel by Iris Murdoch or Richard Powers, or know just where to turn if I need to see what a particular mineral or bird or plant looks like. If I had had to pay for all the books I love, my spending would be in the thousands. Publishing salaries are notoriously low, so perhaps if I had a different career, I could afford to buy all those books. And I'd have more time to read books that really interest me, instead of ones I have to read for work. But I like working with books and being surrounded by them all day long, and discovering things that I might never pick up if I was just browsing in a bookstore.
How much do you spend on books? What are some of your favorites?

6 comments:

Him said...

I think a good book collection should be like the sauce you make in the pan after cooking a steak-- there are wonderful, rich flavors in it, and you boil them down til there is just a spoonful or two of sauce where all those flavors are concentrated and intense and delicious.

Fantastic analogy. Makes me hungry.

HC said...

And they DO furnish a room, as the man said.

There are very few books in my collection that I haven't read at least twice (excluding some old textbooks that I keep for reference). I did a roundup of my books last year and only found 16 titles that I was ready to donate to Goodwill. Maybe by the end of this year I'll find 16 more.

My most frequent re-reads include Pamela Dean's Tam Lin, Yeats' The Celtic Twilight, Middlemarch, and Douglas Coupland's Shampoo Planet.

Anonymous said...

I live in Japan, and spend a small fortune. This last year wasn't so bad, bu t I have spent over 1000 dollars in a year. Finally, I've started doing a lot more trading, and requesting them as presents. I share your reverence for books, for they are surely more precious than gold. Do you read a lot? How many books do you think you read a year?

Anonymous said...

I borrow from the library and ten buy it if I like it. Also I love to read anytime but mostly in at home.

Bitty said...

Because I'm OLD and have been collecting for a long time, I only wish I could fit mine into 19 boxes. Recently my daughter was visiting and suggested I pare down the collection. I don't think so! I usually can only part with about one or two percent when I go through them.

I probably spend $300-400 a year. I too can get the occasional book for free, if I plan to use it for a class, but not really that many. And I'm big on buying used books when they're older titles.

Favorites? That's like asking about a favorite child. But I do tend toward reading contemporary short stories and short story collections.

Woman with kids said...

I visit the library weekly, and have four (full) bookshelves in my tiny house. Plus books in stacks, in drawers, under my night stands, a couple in my car... I like my books.