Friday, March 30, 2012

Buying Books, Badly

Within my great collector universe, I have a niche where I express myself as a somewhat-compulsive book buyer.

Is it because I have been a voracious reader since early childhood? Or because my mother and sister taught reading? Or because I was in the publishing business all my life? Or what?  I don't know exactly why I buy books.
Great Books of the Western World
(gift from mom circa 1965)
But I do know this:

  • I prefer buying used books over new
  • I prefer to find books by serendipity, not by recommendation
  • If I find an author or character I like, I want one of each of all their books, every one
  • I don't like frequenting libraries
  • I'll never belong to a book reading club
  • I've never read best-sellers (OK, I did just race through Steve Jobs' biography in one night)
  • I loathe book clubs and other enforced buying schemes
  • I've learned that publishers rarely produce consistent spine art and titles 
  • I read most of every book I buy (but not every page)
  • I tend to read 3-5 books at a time

Let's have a look around the shelves ... these first two sets are old books that I have had for many years - the Nordhoff and Hall Mutiny on the Bounty and related titles, and George Herter's Professional Guides Manuals. [click any image to enlarge]
Nordhoff and Hall Pacific Islands books 
Herter's Professional Guide Manuals
Some of the 82 Earl Stanley Gardner's Perry Mason novels
Jonathan Gash's Lovejoy
George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman
Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe
Ellery Queen's Masterpieces of Mystery
As you can see I have mis-matched accumulations of each author, but in most cases I have every book that author has written, or every book in a particular series. These are just a small sample - my guess is there are at least 20 more sets like this around my house.

The Ellery Queen set is an exception, in that they have similar bindings and I bought them only from two different used booksellers. The Flashman series is primarily matching paperbacks which I bought one-at-a-time in various stores in Canada, as they were not sold in this form in the USA. I think it took me about 5 years to get all those books, as they were not released all at once.

I have discovered that I have 10 years of IWC watch catalogs, one for each year. And a hundred watch repair manuals. And a few dozen car repair manuals (though I have tossed most of those), and the first 5 versions of the Bosch Automotive Handbook (why? I wanted them!). Today I have just learned that the 8th edition is out. I must contact my friend Mike Bentley, the US distributor, and get one.

Some of these sets are due to my occupation of writing car manuals, but most groupings have been assembled due to my undying quest to understand and experience things. And the collector obsession to have them all.

Esemblo-Graph Watch Repair Manuals 
Haynes Car Repair Manuals (just a few) 
First 5 editions of the Bosch Automotive Handbook
Classic and SportsCar Magazine (about half of the total)
Oh my. I almost forgot my complete set of Automotive Quarterly, a hard-bound automotive journal of history and art. This goes from Vol. 1 Number 1 to today - more than 50 years without a gap. I bought another (deceased) auto book collector's set of the first 30 years, back in Detroit in 1990. So I've been adding to it for 22 years. But I'm about ready to give this quest up. Anybody want a complete Automotive Quarterly set?

Automotive Quarterly