Confessions from a possibly out-of-control bibliophile…who doesn’t want to change.

I’ve previously mentioned my penchant for book collecting. I think it’s fair to say that at this juncture in my life I continue to bring more books into my home than I ever release. I can’t even read them at the rate I once did. I often say, “I live on hope,” and I do hope to one day have the time to read a lot more than I seem able to do just now. In the meantime, though, I can easily turn off the little voice in my head that signals perhaps we’re getting a little close to an unreasonable attachment. Or is it a compulsion? I don’t know. Better yet, I don’t care.

If we ever reach a point in our lives when we choose (or need–yikes!) to downsize and relocate, I am completely grounded in the reality that most of my little treasures will have to go. Until then, I’ll enjoy something that is earthquake-proof. And I do have earthquake stories to share with you sometime…don’t forget I live on shaky ground.

My collection is everything from the ordinary—books I just wanted to have because they sounded interesting to me—to editions that probably do have some value. I have been intentional with collecting signed first editions for many years now. The value in those books varies somewhat, with none being all that valuable. I don’t own a Hemingway or Fitzgerald, but I do have a signed Isabel Allende, John Irving and Tom Wolfe, among many others, but it’s nothing more than a fun hobby. I sometimes consider collecting like a treasure hunt.

I previously wrote about meeting Elizabeth Edwards at a local signing and a picture of that encounter is here. Given the way things turned…I am so glad I had that moment and her signed books are special to me.

And then I have little editions that give me pleasure whether they are valuable or not. I have an 1889 volume, “Louisa May Alcott: Life, Letters and Journals,” published one year after her death. The first edition book was published by the Alcott family. One of the key features of this edition is a frontispiece photograph of Alcott and a short greeting in her handwriting. When I first saw it my heart jumped…I thought at first I might have an authentic signature.

I don’t collect for specific value, but for fun. Maybe it’s the hunt! And then this past week I added one more signed first edition!

Many of you share with me the absolute pleasure of following the many adventures of Accidental Cootchie Mama Andra Watkins. If somehow you haven’t yet had the pleasure of being introduced, let me do that now! Andra is far from being a “one note” artist. I think she was born with a little recorder in her brain that somehow collected all of her life events for future recall—she can tell a story!

Andra and her husband, Michael (or MTM), just moved to a new home this week, and Andra’s sense of fun came through even in the middle of a stressful packing and relocation schedule. She offered a verbal auction, proffering personal items that weren’t going to make the cut to the new home, and all we had to do to place our bid and throw our names into the hat was give a reason we might like to receive the chosen gift.

Her first item came with the accompanying story of how she attended a Philipa Gregory book signing for the newly released “The Other Queen.” Prolific historical novelist Gregory spent a good portion of her book signing time answering questions about her previous book-turned-movie, “The Other Boleyn Girl” and vociferously lamented the quality of the movie. Andra’s observations about the event are very humorous.

Thanks to others who read of my interest in a signed book, the deck was stacked, and I DID indeed receive the book in the mail where it now resides next to other treasured volumes. Beyond my interest in the book itself, I have a very happy association with it because it came by way of Andra’s generosity. What a fun blogging community, and a lovely connection between two book lovers—one in South Carolina, and the other all the way across the country in California. Thank you, Andra!

I’ll conclude the week with a few photos from last weekend’s book adventure. I tend to stay away from places like this…for obvious reasons. I was surprised that Jay was so accommodating. He didn’t resist even once!

We took advantage of a sunny Saturday to spend the afternoon at the 17th Annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books—the “mother ship” for a bibliophile. Hundreds of author notables were present for signings and forum discussions. I found it totally overwhelming. I do understand what happens to a child’s brain in a candy store!

We didn’t prearrange line tickets or make a plan…we just wandered and hand fun. Maybe next year I’ll have more self-control and can be trusted with a specific agenda and a roadmap to even more booths and interviews!

A beautiful setting for book sightings and signings, don't you think? How could I resist?

I witnessed a young woman purchase a first-edition Emily Dickinson for $1,000.00. It was nice just to see it!

Many authors had booths promoting their new releases. I had to take a picture of the name.

I'd love to join...if I had a spare five minutes! Maybe someday.

This is Jeff Kinney, author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. He was absolutely mobbed by interested children with great questions for him. It was thrilling to see how many young readers attended this event. All is not lost...

I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Indulge in whatever pastimes give you a pause that refreshes! I’ll look forward to hearing about whatever you do…and then maybe I’ll even spend some time reading one of the books I bought at the festival…oops! I wasn’t going to admit that. Oh well…I say it’s good for my well-being. Please don’t argue with me.

…Debra

48 thoughts on “Confessions from a possibly out-of-control bibliophile…who doesn’t want to change.

  1. I love following trails between blogs: it’s great to have tracked Andra’s book back here, Debra. I am full of admiration for someone who collects properly…I adore books but for some very strange reasons, and my collection is rather idiosyncratic. Yours sound amazing: and the visit to the book festival looked great. A first edition Emily Dickinson…be still my beating heart…

    • To be honest, Kate, I do have quite a few nice volumes at this point, but I haven’t always given it a lot of thought. I think the more valuable selections are probably Presidential autobiographies. I do have several written and autographed by American Presidents. Maybe those will be ones my children (or grandchildren) will appreciate. I’m not sure what will ever happen with the rest :-) And the first edition Emily Dickinson was really lovely. A very slim little volume. What most impressed me about the purchase was the young woman buying it was probably no more than 25 years old, and this was something she had her heart set on. I’m glad I witnessed it! Debra

  2. Debra, I hope to be on the list for the LA Times Festival of Books someday – as an author. What a dream-come-true that would be. (Though blog readers will get first dibs at signed books. It will happen. I am determined.)

    I am so glad you got the book and enjoy having it in your collection. It always feels great to give things to people who will really appreciate them.

  3. Mr. N would have been so excited to meet the author of the Wimpy Kid Diaries. He’s read four of them already. I don’t know how many there are…but he just keeps reading. I had to laugh when you said you live on hope. I feel that way about my magazines. I have several stacking up that I hope to get to sooner or later. And then there’s the books I would love to read given the time too. ;) Congrats on receiving another signed book for your collection. Have a great weekend!

    • Oh magazines! I still have stacks of those, too, and I think that may be where I have actually lost hope, Kristy! There are so many good things out there to read and absorb…I was losing ground before I began a blog. Now? Good grief! LOL! You can tell your little guy that the author talked about another book about to be released! They must be very popular, because boys and girls alike were just clamoring to talk to the author! How wonderful that Mr. N loves to read! Even if it’s only a simple series, it sure gets them in the door! Have a good weekend, Kristy! Debra

  4. Emily Dickinson for $1,000.00? That’s amazing! We have so few book sales like this in the UK… the closest I can get at the moment is a lovely little bookshop full of the worlds book oddities, old and new, it really is collection heaven! I’ve managed to pick up some wonderful limited edition poetry books from there; now I just need to get around to reading them all! :)

    • I think that many reputable rare and collectible booksellers are even on-line, but I know that isn’t as inviting as in person! If you have a nice collection of limited edition poetry books the collection as whole will be worth something some day, but I really think most of us who love books don’t really want to part with them anyway! I don’t buy anything for its resale value! And the Emily Dickinson volume was really sweet…I thought $1,000. was quite reasonable…I didn’t have it to spend, but I still thought it was a good deal! :-) You be sure and let me know when you publish your book of poetry. I will want an autographed first edition! I sincerely mean that, Eve! Debra

      • I’m not sure whether my book collection would be worth anything, but then again, like you say I really don’t think I’d have the heart to part with any of them! There’s just something about a book, you know? Like when you’ve bought it, it becomes part of the family almost. I often think about all the hard work that goes into making them; even from the absolute beginning when the writer begins that first line, or first stream of thought that gets them writing the book in the first place. So much work goes into them, it’s mind boggling!
        Some of the most beautiful designs I’ve seen are on book covers, like Burnside’s Black Cat Bone… it’s so simple, but I think it’s really lovely. :) I’m a sucker for leather-bound book though, I’m always on the lookout for those!

      • And thank you so much for saying that Debra… a book of my own is just a pipe-dream at the moment… I’m certain I need to be a bit wiser and more learned to produce something worthy to publish at the moment. But, for you to say that now, really makes my heart sing, so, thank you very, very much. xxx

      • You’ll know when it is time, Eve! And it is probably not while you are finishing a dissertation! I hope that is going well! The world o publishing is changing so rapidly and you are doing exactly the right thing for now, I’m sure…and that is working at your craft and developing a following! I see a very bright literary future for you! You are welcome! Debra

  5. There is a huge used book even each year in Philly. I intend to go next year. My son and I are both huge bibliophiles, too. I so “get it”!. One of my dear friends in OH and I used to scour the thrift shops for books. The perimeter of her basement recreation rooms was lined floor to ceiling with bookshelves that her husband built for her. Besides that, this is another bookcase idea her husband came up with for her. He got (or built) multiple bookcases. He put casters on the BACK of the book cases so they were like huge dollies. These were placed on their backs underneath their king sized bed. I think there were 4 or 5 bookcases under their bed, which sat in the center of the room so she could easily slide each book case out from under the bed to access the books in each bookcase! Genius!

    • My goodness, yes! The under bed book cases are brilliant! Ha! What a great idea. And I think that thrift shops are excellent sources of books, and I’ve found a few editions that I know had value. I’ve thought that if I had time, which I don’t right now, it would be fun to purchase books from thrift stores and turn around and sell them on Amazon. I think a person could at least make more book money! :-) Have a good weekend, Kate! Debra

  6. I enjoyed reading about your day at the LA Book Festival because I wasn’t able to go this year. (We’re hiking the BackBone Trail of the Santa Monica Mountains and hike #5 was last Saturday).

    I’m sorry you didn’t include the photo of the young woman who paid $1,000 for a book! I thought there was a recession over here?

    • You had a beautiful weekend for a hike, Rosie! You have really been getting out there an getting to now the Santa Monica Mountains! Good for you. I was kind of snooping over the young woman purchasing the Dickinson! I don’t think she new I was paying so much attention. I keep thinking the same thing about the recession…just take a look at all the fine dining establishments…no shortage of customers! Must be flashing lots of plastic! :-) Any more hiking this weekend? Debra

  7. Isn’t it nice to reduce one’s own guilt by reading someone else’s confession?! My weakness is yoga books. But I love all books and have some old books that I really treasure. Aren’t books just the most wonderful friends? They can transport us to far away exotic regions (real or imaginary), introduce us to new people and places and never judge us! So glad you enjoyed the Book Festival. It is a sensory overload! In such a good way. Your house sounds like a magical place full of enticing and interesting possessions! You can start selling tickets (really it sounds as interesting as any museum) and start saving for your rare book collection!!

    • Oh, aren’t you sweet, Diane! I’ll have to have you and Lauren come over and see the books sometime. You won’t be impressed that anything is all that rare, or valuable, but it is just an eclectic mix, and of course, most have a story attached. I’m glad we share the love of books. I’d be interested in hearing more about yours, too. It’s just a fun and as you say, non-judgmental pastime…if they begin to stack up too much, we can stick them under the bed. Ha! D

  8. Debra, you know I love books, but you may not know that I collect signed editions as well. I was thrilled that you inherited Andra’s book. My most treasured ones are of Desmond Tutu, who held my hand, and Sister Helen Prejean who smiled when I told her I would put her book right next to the Archbishop’s. Chicago has a similar book festival. I know the temptation.

    My prize today was a brand new copy of Run by Ann Patchet. It was on the book sale pile at the library, for 10¢, didn’t look like it was ever read, and is our September book group read.

    • How fun to share this with you, Penny! There are always good stories that come with the books…and I don’t mean the story between the cover. Ha! Desmond Tutu spoke at our parish a couple of years ago and was utterly amazing. I didn’t get a book, though :-( Were you able to get a picture of him? That would be a really nice thing to have! Sister Helen Prejean spoke another time, too, and I got a signed bookplate. I can’t remember why she didn’t sign the books, but it may have been available time. And I have a signed copy of Run by Ann Patchet…I heard her speak, too. But as I confessed, I have “Run” but have never read it! I think that library piles are very good places to find good books! I get the feeling you are getting in more reading than I am these days. I may need to take a day off soon just to indulge :-) Have a good weekend, Penny! Debra

      • I am sorry to say that, no, I didn’t get a picture with Desmond Tutu. That would have been so wonderful. I was so inspired by his speech, and of course his life. I have quite a few signed books that I have never read, and don’t be fooled, I’m not getting any more read than you these days. I try to set aside an hour or so each day in the afternoon to read, when the light is good, but am not often able to do that. At night, I just fall asleep.

        Have you read Patchett’s Bel Canto? It is one of my favorite books. I’m hoping Run will live up to my expectations.

        You have a good weekend as well.

      • Well, I’m sorry you’re not getting any more reading in, but in a way that’s comforting to me, Penny! LOL! I keep thinking there’s something I’m just not doing right. How is it that when my own children were young and I was so busy with raising a family I somehow got more reading time. I’m not sure I understand, but I think you’ve hit it—it’s the falling asleep at night! I do remember being able to read late at night and still get up in the morning. Not any more! And yes, Bel Canto is the only one of Patchett’s books I did read, and it was wonderful! My friends have said Run is very good! :-) Debra

  9. There is a beautiful tree in one of those shots, Debra. I have been to Wordstock a couple of times (Portland’s annual literary festival). It’s great fun. I always take out more books from the library than I actually read. Sometimes I even renew them and don’t get around to reading them. But I do weed my book collection periodically (It needs weeding now).

  10. So much pleasures books bring. I do have way too many books too – but of course not. I don’t collect as such, but I just love books, no matter what edition it is or if it’s signed or not. For me the reading is what makes books so great. But I also admit it’s not only that, because otherwise I would have turned to Kindle or something like that long time ago. But I think books should be read as printed books, and then I want to own it too…

    • Yes, Otto. I’ve thought of e-books, but then I can’t share them. And I do like the feel of a book! One reason I don’t thin out my shelves any better than I do is because sometimes I go back and read a book again. I’ve been known to give away a book and later purchase a used copy…I had a reason I wanted to read it again! Only other book lovers understand this :-) Debra

  11. What a great way to spend a sunny afternoon! That’s my kind of day and you chose the perfect picture to end the pictorial. Knowing that children came to see a favorite author really does give hope. It’s good to see that not all of our kids have been captured by video gaming

    • Yes, John, I was thrilled to see so many children literally clamoring to speak to the author. Target was the sponsor for a very large section of the festival focused on children, and there were hundreds–really several hundred children very actively purchasing books, getting autographs and showing enthusiasm. I was so happy to see that! It was a really nice day. There was a lot of temptation, but I used a lot of restraint! :-) Debra

  12. If it’s a “compulsion”, I think it’s one worth keeping! :) How fun to have signed books by well known authors. I only have two: one by Ivana Trump and another by a minister. BTW, I was invited to do a book signing, as a local merchant supports local authors. They will have over 24 authors doing book signings. I declined because of the hearing issues, but maybe another time as they will have this event again.

    • I’m sorry that this particular signing event would be too much for you right now, Marie, but I hope in fact you can later. I think you’d enjoy the interaction with those who attend. Typically only interested people take the time, so I would think it would be very affirming! Continued success on your writing and publishing, Marie! That is a major accomplishment! Debra

  13. I think you’re collecting some wonderful books and editions. I would love anything by Louisa May Alcott. And anything by Jane Austin. And Beatrix Potter – those would be what I would collect. Great choice! xx

    • Oh yes! Beatrix Potter…wouldn’t that be a fun collection! I may have to begin curbing my enthusiasm, though. I realize that at this point I don’t even know what I own…That may be a good warning to me! :-) Debra

  14. Glad that the book made its way from Charleston to California without mishap. And your photos of the Festival of Books looks great . . . not at all “shaky” . . . just “shady.” :D

  15. I don’t collect books; I just keeping getting more! Every so often I do a major clear out to a charity shop, but the space doesn’t last.
    Debra, it would have been rude to go to such a fabulous bookie event and not buy anything ;)

    • I like your point of view, Fiona! In our sagging economy I did need to purchase a few things to support the hard working book vendors! I feel better now! And yes, I’m sure I do understand that clearing books from the shelves only makes room for more! :-) Debra

  16. A lovely and very interesting post, Debra. Books aren’t optional, they’re essential – to my well-being at least. I even have some shelved two deep – the ones I won’t use much, if ever in the future, yet can’t bear to get rid of. We bibliophiles are hopeless cases. :-)

  17. Wow …. Autographs of presidential books intrigues me.

    Interesting how book deliver so many wonders and pleasures. My wife an avid book reader, and fortunately, she uses the library.

    Meanwhile, on to the next post to catch up what I missed over the weekend.

    • I’m playing catch up today, too, Frank. I need to get more connected to the library myself. The economy might take another hit, though, so maybe it’s my civic duty to continue with my book collecting:-) The Presidential books are easy to obtain once they leave office and write a memoir. I started with Gerald Ford and think I have every President since. No Obama, though. I think in time that will be possible! It’s just a fun challenge. Debra

  18. I’m late to this conversation, Debra, but enjoyed reading this morning nonetheless! I have a crazy obsession with paper, pens and all things stationery and love buying books. I don’t have a collection as such but over the years have kept the significant books.. I think the titles tell a story about the person who owns the bookshelf:) I found a really cool bookstore in Montreal and know you would have loved to see it as well. I don’t believe we have events like this here… but I’ll be looking for it in the future!

    • If you have kept special volumes that mean something to you, Smidge, that’s a personal collection. I don’t think I really realized I had a collection until I noticed I never put any in the give-away pile. The hobby, if that’s what it is, kind of sneaked up on me! I love to go to bookstores in other cities…you’ll have to share about the one in Montreal! Hope your week goes smoothly, Smidge! Debra

    • Thanks for the suggestion, Gwen. I do enjoy biographies. I’ll have to check into Hilary Clinton’s. I don’t think I even knew she had one out. I’ll take a look! Thanks for stopping by.

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