Are You A Book Collector Or A Reader ?

I believe it was Diogenes who said “To own books without reading them is like having a painting of a bowl of fruit.” Philosophers say things like that. I would say it is like having a bowl of fruit on your dining room table, but not eating any. A book, after all, is there for you to read at any time, as the fruit is there should you get hungry. You can only eat a painting if you have a mental disorder.

I don’t have a bowl of fruit, but I do have about 300 unread books. I am working on it, however.

There are two types of bibliophiles, or so I have read. One is a collector of books, a mania really, where the hunt is the thing. Collectors like to create libraries, whether they are all first editions, or all editions of certain writers, or rare books of any genre or age; basically any idea for collecting that grabs you. Some collectors have over 10,000 books and manuscripts. But they do not read them all. Who has the time?

I have no true rare books, none worth more than $60-$70, but I do like to collect books that need homes, as well as books I want to read. If I live long enough I might get to 1,000 books, and would be there now, but somehow books have gotten lost during moves, or I gave some away, and some evaporate into thin air, going I know not where.

Then there are the bibliophiles who are inveterate readers, buying and reading with voracious, lustful appetites.  Both types of bibliophiles are compulsive, whether to collect or read, they both have a mania.

Jacques Bonnet, a French bibliophile, says, “An inextinguishable curiosity drove me to find out what lay behind the words and phrases, and the unknown reality on to which I had stumbled . . . the fanatical reader is not only anxious, he or she is curious.”

I think readers can identify with that statement. I recently read “To Fetch a Devil” about an unsolved 1938 murder of a socialite woman and her 23 year old daughter in a desert near El Paso. I was curious, not only because it was unsolved, but how the author, Clint Richmond, put all the clues together and came up with a plausible, though circumstantial solution. And the solution was fascinating. And believable, even with all the complications and people involved.

Words. Sentences. They are magic. And writers are magicians.

So we collect, we read.



In an April 4th post about three cheap ways to become a bookaholic I mentioned  that I had 81 unread e-Books and 133 unread old fashioned books, the type you hold in your hand without use of a device, unless, of course, you recognize hands as a device. This amounted to 234 books waiting for me to crack open, or in the case of an e-Book tap open.

Two months and a few days since that post there is no relief as the avalanche continues to bury me. Unread e-Books up to 96 and the old fashioned kind up to 157. This adds  up to 253, a 19 book gain. And keep in mind I have read and finished books during this time, hoping to lighten the load bearing down on me.

And it is going to get worse. This Saturday and again on Monday the Friends of the Library is holding one of there sales. The proceeds go to the library to help them purchase new books,  to aid library programs and buy supplies for kids. So everybody wins. Except for a book hoarder like myself; I can barely breath, let alone move under the weight of unread books.

How good is the sale you ask? Hardback books at 50 cents or 3 for a $1. Who does this? This is as close to giving books away as you can get. Do they expect me to stay away, do they think I have discipline? I believe they have these sales knowing they will make a fortune off me. And paperbacks are 25 cents each or 6 for a $1. The same goes for VHS tapes, CD’s and audio books. To be honest the CD’s they had at previous sale were mostly music to accompany your yoga workout, or music from countries I did not know existed. But I go for the books anyway.

I will spend the next few days reading books nearest my hands, as many as I can, foregoing meals, bathroom trips, sleeping, and doing anything that prevents me from getting out from under this cataclysmic cascade of opus delicti.




Three cheap ways to become a bookaholic

After counting and doing a recount I have 234 unread books; 133 of the old fashioned kind, hardback and paperback and 81 21st century e-books. And I accumulated these books quite cheaply. And I have my eye on “The Autobiography of Mark Twain, volume 1” for $2 and an American Heritage book of the Civil War; pictures, illustrations, with words from Bruce Catton and James McPherson for $3. If you love books, here are my legitimate secrets. And I am not talking about Goodwill, yard sales, and the like.

  1. In Western Washington, the Timberland Library has a section where customers can buy books. Paperbacks $1 and hardbacks generally $2. It raises money for the library and therefore you are doing a good thing. I don’t know what happens in other libraries, in other states or regions, but check with your local library. I have found classics like “Madame De Lafayette” by The Princess De Cleves, as well as books from Truman Capote, Kurt Vonnegut, J.A. Jance, and some terrific non-fiction books like “The Oxford History of the Classical World.” The Friends of the Library raises money for the library and once a year they have a sale. I bought ten hardbacks for $2.25 and came back after 3 o’clock when everything was half priced and bought more books. And the day before the sale there was a box and two small bins that had free books. I took ten and they were from well known writers. One was a 1951 Dell paperback edition of Bernard Malamud’s “The Natural” and the cover was priceless, the condition quite good. Over those two days, including the free books I came away with 28 books, spending less than $4 and two bags of VHS tapes that they gave away for nothing, it being after 3 o’clock and they wanted to get rid of them. All were popular and classic films.
  2. In Olympia, Washington, and there may be one near you, is Half Price Books. They also have record albums, DVD’s, and classic comic books. The condition of their books  are better than what you might find at the library and once a year they have a sale where all books are $1.00. It is here I bought two Don DeLillo books, two early Michael Crichton books written under the name of John Lange, now published in the Hard Crime series, a great collection if you like crime noir and pulp fiction. I also purchased an Elmore Leonard, a P.D. James, among other books. They have other specials during the week, but this is one sale you never miss.
  3. Turning to e-Books there are many subscription services that send you daily emails where you can get e-Books from free to $2.99 and these e-Books, in the case of BookBub, are from well know writers. With BookBub you select the type of books you want, such as mystery, historic non-fiction, science fiction, horror, romance, whatever you desire.

The problem I face, and perhaps some of you as well, is that purchasing outgrows your reading. This is how I now have 234 unread books. Remember I never said you have to read any of them. I have read one since I reached 234, that being “The Ghost Writer” and am close to finishing James Patterson’s “Swimsuit.” So you can imagine with two books gone I will be getting itchy eyes for some more choices to read. I guess the Twain biography and the Civil War book may be added by days end.

If you have some cheap ways to get books please mention in the comment section. Not just for me, but for other bookaholics.

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