Five years ago, I would have told you adamantly that by nature, I am not a collector. My fellow book people would often express surprise that I’m not into box sets or first editions, but it wasn’t my thing: I like to read the books, but that doesn’t mean I need to own them. I don’t like to accumulate stuff, I don’t wish to store it, and there are no material goods I love that much.
So today I’m going to show you a few of my collections. Life is funny, yes?
At this point in time, I have a handful of modest collections, and it’s fair to say all are intimately tied to the reading and writing life. Let’s take a peek.
Orange Penguin paperback classics were my gateway collection. I’ve always loved the look of these, and my revelatory moment came at a used book sale, when I noticed there were dozens of these books available for a dollar or less.
Something about the plenty of these exuberant editions, combined with their low price point, turned a switch in my brain. It sounds silly to say it now but until that moment I hadn’t realized I could buy books that I may or may not ever read just because the look of them makes me happy.
I don’t have tons these days—maybe two dozen or so—but I love to keep an eye out when I’m browsing book sales or used bookstores, and sometimes friends send them as gifts. They live on the top shelf in my office, lending my workspace their cheery pop of orange.
These beautiful books are part of the Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets collection. I fell in love with these tiny editions when I first saw them at Faulkner House Books in New Orleans, and I’ve been collecting them ever since.
I love to buy these when I travel: when I’m on the road, I’m constantly searching new and used bookstores for their distinctive spines. They’re not widely carried, so my collection is growing slowly (not a bad thing); my most recent acquisitions were in Oxford MS and Scotland.
Something I love about the Pocket Poets and the orange Penguins is they give me a mission when I’m entering a new sale or store: the first thing I do is look for books to add to my collection, and then I look at everything else.
My third collection was inspired by a visit to the original CW Pencil Enterprise shop on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The owner, Caroline Weaver, had a vase on her desk that held every the nub of every pencil they’d used up since the shop opened.
Seeing as I don’t own a pencil shop, I didn’t begin my own collection right away. (I wish I had—my jar would be so much fuller by now!) But I kept thinking about Caroline’s collection, and finally took the plunge. Better late than never, right? (For a great discussion with the Pencil Lady herself, don’t miss this podcast episode.)
Do you have a collection? Are you thinking about starting one? We’d love to hear all about it in the comments section!