In my line of work I am constantly amazed at the weird and wonderful types of books people like to collect. You always come across the bibliophiles who collect things like modern first editions. These collectors are the norm. It’s the offbeat ones that always raise an eyebrow for me. I’m intrigued to know why they collect what they collect, and how their obsession started. Today, for instance, I had a customer call who wanted me to compile a list of books we had available that had blue spines. Seems he was collecting them to create some sort of arty wall feature slash bookcase. And, only last week I fielded an enquiry from a lady who collected children’s books that had butterflies on the cover. Turns out she collects them so that she can cut out the illustrations for craft projects. Sacrilegious, I know! My favourite of all time though is the guy who collected books with the last page missing. I don’t mean the blank endpapers at the end of most books. I mean the last text page! He collected them because he found it amusing to read a book and not know the real ending. I never quite worked out why he didn't just rip out the last page of every book he came across. Each to their own, I guess! It got me to thinking what other crazy book collecting habits are out there in the book-o-sphere.
My own book collecting habits are of the more mundane kind. When I was a teenager I collected the Trixie Belden detective books. I’m still fuming that my mother consented to lend them to a friend and they were never to be seen again. I then went through a funny phase of collecting any books that had my name in the title. How very self indulgent of me? Again, I was just a teenager and in my defence had recently fallen in love with the novel Forever Amber, so it seemed only logical that I’d be just as smitten with every other book with ‘Amber’ in the title. This theory was soon debunked after I read Elizabeth Lowell’s, Amber Beach (apologies to all Elizabeth Lowell fans out there). The Hare with Amber Eyes is the next title on my book club list and it’s got rave reviews, so there may be life left in this particular book fetish yet. It won’t surprise you to know that now-a-days I collect books written by people who run, or have run, second-hand or antiquarian bookstores. You’d think this would be a fairly narrow sub-genre, but actually there are quite a lot of books out there on the topic. It seems nearly every second-hand bookstore owner puts pen to paper eventually. I also collect books written by the great sporting coaches. I’m a netball coach myself and am always looking to be inspired by the words of the masters. I collect them because the good ones seem to be few and far between, and because I’m always inclined to re-read them when I’m low on confidence. Last but not least, I collect any books that deal with the history and current social plight of Aboriginal Australians. For me, this last obsession is all about trying to fill the gap that my white Australian education created. Sorry to end on such a serious note!
So fess up! What types of books do you like to collect, and why? Or, dob in a friend! They’ll never know.