Books. I have a lot of them. I keep getting more of them. I am becoming increasingly aware of the value, not only of a well written book, but also of a well made book. There is a reason that paper back books sell for a penny on Amazon. There is a reason those books are called “mass market.” They are cheap to make and cheaply made. One or two read throughs and the book will be creased and tattered.
This is why I have found myself paying more attention to the quality of the books I buy. By quality I don’t mean the writing or subject, I always pay attention to those, I mean the way the book is made. Here’s an example. Laura and I both enjoy reading novels by the late Michael Crichton. It is a true testament to the quality of his writing and research that his books, even more than thirty years after they were published, remain thoroughly enjoyable reads. I can pick up a book like Congo and, even though the technology in the book is extremely dated, Crichton pulls me into the story and reminds me of a time when 256K of memory in a computer was so cutting edge it was mind blowing.
Because I appreciate the work of Crichton, and I think he is one of the best examples of a popular fiction author in the latter half of the 20th century, I have started to replace our cheap and worn paperback versions of his works with more enduring and endearing hardcover copies. I’ve even gone so far as to buy a hard to find first edition of The Terminal Man and an absolutely stunning autographed Easton Press version of The Andromeda Strain (both were gifts for my wife). We’ll keep the paperbacks to lend out, but the hardcovers are for us to enjoy at home and one day share with our kids.
It is not just for Crichton that I do this. Laura and I both greatly enjoy the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. We currently have two very nice copies of the The Chronicles of Narnia. One is a nice, hardcover box set of all seven books. The other is a nice looking (not very expensive) blue bonded leather volume that contains all seven books and will probably be our “readers” copy. We also have a very nice edition of The Lord of The Rings as well as a very nice edition of The Hobbit. I have often thought that if I ever had extra money it would be fun to troll eBay and become a collector of different versions and editions of Narnia and Rings.
All that to say, I like nice books. When taken care of they’ll last a very long time and some editions will even prove to be good investments because they will only become more valuable as time goes on. Ultimately, in an age where more and more things are “going digital,” I still find myself turning to old fashioned physical books. There is something quietly reassuring about walking into a room and seeing a wall of books. There is something about picking up a physical copy of Narnia and thumbing through the pages, glancing at the pictures, and thinking about sitting down with my son to read the book to him someday that can’t be had with a digital copy. There is a feeling of connectedness in knowing that if these books are well taken care of they could easily end up in the library of my kids, grandkids, and even further down the line.
So maybe I’m crazy or perhaps just a bit eccentric, but I’ll keep scouring bookstores, eBay, and Amazon for books that are special to me so that I can add them to my bookshelf. I’ll keep hunting down hardback and even the occasional leather bound edition of my favorites so that my family and I can enjoy them for many years to come.