My relationship with books is a matter of public record; I've written about how many I have and why I'm trying to have fewer. But oddly enough, at the present time I am also buying a few for the permanent collection (well, to the extent that the collection may be called "permanent" since I am chronically re-curating it).
When I was doing my paper purge last month I dug up a photocopy I made roughly 2.5 decades ago from a science-fiction collection in my high school library. It was the story "In Hiding" by Wilmar Shiras. I decided to go look on Amazon to see if the story was available for my Kindle.
EVEN BETTER. It was, I discovered, the first chapter in a BOOK, titled "Children of the Atom," which was available in a nice hardcover edition. This book is now sitting on my shelf. I haven't read it yet, but I am gloating.
This week I got in a 1951 hardcover first edition - in excellent condition - of "The Devil in Velvet," by John Dickson Carr. It's a historical mystery that I read in paperback years ago, and kept the paperback even though the typeface was small enough to make my eyeballs bleed. I only have one other Carr piece (a copy of "Most Secret" from the library of Dorothy B. Hughes, author of "In a Lonely Place") and I haven't read that yet either. These are in the nature of hoarded treats. I may not keep them forever, but for now they are certainly "keepers."
What else makes a book a "keeper"?
There are a lot of different kinds of readers. I'm the kind that gets hooked on an author and collects everything they've written. In the case of some authors, I've bought multiple copies over the years as I upgraded my collection - as with Dick Francis. I started with paperbacks, began filling in with any hardcover I could find, gradually improved to first U.S. editions. I have all of his now in first U.S., except for "Dead Cert." I do intend to replace that item eventually. I need a better copy of "Nerve," too.
So, back to "keepers." Basically, in the past, I've kept everything in a series that I was collecting until the series ended or until I decided not to keep the series anymore. I've changed that outlook recently in the interest of not outgrowing my shelf space. I am currently re-reading some series to determine which items in the series I actually do want to re-read in the future. Not all entries in every series are equivalently fun or durable, in terms of standing up to multiple readings.
The books I am divesting this time around are very good copies. First edition hardcovers, most of them, in the best condition I could afford, and signed by the author if possible.
But I decided I don't want to be a "completist" with everybody. (Dick Francis, yes. Ngaio Marsh, yes. I have loved every one of their books, every time I've read 'em. )
And I decided I don't really need to hang onto items that are not special in some way. If the book is now available for e-reader, is relatively recent, and doesn't have any other characteristic to make it collectible, I may well divest it even if I like it a lot. If I don't like it a whole lot - if it's just "eh, that was okay" at this point - I'll divest it.
So this time around, what constitutes a "keeper" is:
I've read it more than once already and want to read it again; and
It has some physical qualities that make it rare or collectible; or
It's part of a series which I love without reservation; or
It is so collectible that it's worth hanging onto, even though I might not unreservedly love it, because it is actually worth some money on the secondary market.
I've never had my collection appraised and may never bother. One doesn't really buy books as an investment; they are too perishable, unless you lock them in a waterproof, fireproof vault and never read them. And what's the point of that?
38. Hello Goodbye Hello,* by Craig Brown. A collection of 101 true-life brief encounters, a la La Ronde.
39. Seafaring Women,* by David Cordingly. This guy really can spin a yarn. This is an exhaustively researched yet easy-reading survey of 18th to 19th century women in relation to the British & American sea trades.
40. Promises in Death, by J.D. Robb. Bound to end up on the Kindle at some point.
41. Origin in Death, by J.D. Robb. By far the most science-fictiony of the series so far, with a great setup that's well carried-through.
42. Survivor in Death, by J.D. Robb. PTSD galore.
43. 1001 Things Everyone Should Know About Science,* by James Trefil. I started working on this two decades ago. Oy! Finally I have finished reading it. Well worth the read.
44. Remember When, by J.D. Robb. The two-parter about diamonds.
45. The Reluctant Widow, by Georgette Heyer. A Regency frolic.
46. The Grand Sophy, by Georgette Heyer. Unusually in GH, the hero in this one is bad-tempered well past the point of likeability.
47. The Masqueraders, by Georgette Heyer. A very involved Georgian story with several romances.
48. The Bookman's Wake, by John Dunning. Another excellent "Bookman" mystery, this one set mostly in Seattle.
49. Skull Duggery, by Aaron Elkins. In Mexico for the worst-case-scenario of identity theft.
50. Uneasy Relations, by Aaron Elkins. In Gibraltar for an academic fraud with deadly consequences.
51. Little Tiny Teeth, by Aaron Elkins. In the Amazon for the "vacation" from hell.
52. Good Blood, by Aaron Elkins. In Italy for a switched-at-birth scenario.
53. Where There's a Will, by Aaron Elkins. In Hawaii for a switched-at-death scenario. The previous Gideon Oliver stories are leaving, but this one is a lot of fun, and stays.
54. The Bookman's Promise, by John Dunning. In which Janeway hunts for a lost Burton library, but the books are just a red herring in this one and there is significant, even excessive, general brutality.
55. The Sign of the Book, by John Dunning. This one revolves around a "did she or didn't she" domestic shooting, an autistic child, forged signatures, and a lot of small-town bullshit. These two are leaving the permanent collection.
I am planning a Great Trade; I have a paper carton full of books so far and am working on a second. I have identified two mystery and science-fiction bookstores in Greater L.A., and it's been a good long time since I went and had a good browse.