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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

My Book Collections

I can sometimes be a little obsessive (who would have thought?). One of the ways this manifests itself is in completism. And since of all the areas of my life reading is the forefront, this completist attitude dictates a good bit of my reading and book buying. I cannot start a book without finishing. I cannot begin a series without finishing. I collect entire bodies of work by various authors or even imprints (Canongate Myths, anyone?). But my two favorite collections? Granta and the Modern Library.

 Granta is a literary magazine of “new writing” that has been published quarterly since 1979. I currently own 15 of the 123 issues. As a subscriber I receive the newest issue each quarter, but my favorite thing about this collection (besides reading them of course) is hunting down back issues. I haunt library sales and used bookstores and since my collection is still in the early stages and I have so few issues I usually find one or two I don’t have.

Modern Library is a publishing house begun in 1917 as a way to disseminate literature to the masses in attractive, cost effective hardcover books. I love the design of Modern Library books, especially those from the 1920s and 1930s. I have been collecting these guys for the last eight years and I’m closing in on 100 editions. This type of collection means defeat for me as a completist (there are thousands of Modern Library editions of classic and modern works) but in this instance I think I can take it. They make for a beautiful bookshelf.

As the book industry and the world continue to change, I can’t help but think about the book as a physical object. I have an ereader and I enjoy using it (especially my Kobo’s backlight – reading in the dark is my new favorite thing) but I still have a passion (some argue fetish) for the book as physical object. I like seeing these two collections on my shelves. A digital file will not remind me of the time John and I found a cache of Modern Library books at a tiny used bookstore in the middle of nowhere on our way home from a trip to North Carolina. I will never loan my Kobo to my sister as I emphatically proclaim “you just have to read this one story!” I don’t consider myself a materialist or a fetishist. However, I see books as a repository of ideas and I enjoy having the physical manifestations of those ideas in my space, creating my world both in my head and outside of it.

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