OK, I admit it, I’m a book addict. I used to think I had it under control when I first started – just the odd paperback here and there, and everything stored on the little bookshelf at the head of my bed. Then I discovered jumble sales, and the concept that you could get hold of great books without having to pay full price for them. Leaving school and starting work took me on another step – there were still secondhand bookshops around Holborn in those days, and I fell into the trap of the collection. Yes, those first few Giles annuals were easy, but look how many more there were to get, and how far back they went (fortunately, I never did get beyond a few facsimilies of those early ones – I think something else must have come into competition). The advent of charity shops on every high street just made it worse – sure, quite often there’s nothing to be found, but equally often, sometimes in the most unexpected places, you’ll hit a motherlode of books just crying out to be taken away to a good home – it’s the book equivalent of Battersea Dogs Home! Yes, I know I should be more ruthless and operate a one-in, one-out policy like everyone tells me, but there’s always that very good reason why this one’s an exception: it’s a classic; I might want to read it again; it’ll be good for reference; but just look at that great cover. It’s not unusual to end up with several copies – the hardback (rarely a first edition, but something that gives the feel for what it looked and felt like when it was first published); the Pan paperback with the great illustration on the cover; the American paperback with the even better picture – oh, and a reading copy so none of the others get beaten up and so I can lend it out without fear of losing one of the ‘keepers’.
So here’s just a few of the books that sparked that addiction…
The hard fact is I love books and love having them around me. I love the ability to contemplate what’ll be next off the shelf: a brand new publication? That interesting-looking volume from the ‘proper’ secondhand bookshops in Whitstable or Tewkesbury (both places I virtually have to run past to avoid the gravitational pull)? Maybe that cheapie from the charity shop – not sure if it’ll be any good but at that price…? Or maybe a journey back with one of the books that has defined a part of my life and that serves me as well as any photo album.
I have had to force myself into some culls in recent years – there’s only so much loft insulation the rafters will stand before a carton full of Penguins lands on top of us in the middle of the night (now there’s a thought – how many birds and animals have had their names used by publishers? I can cite a menagerie of Penguins, Puffins, Pelicans, Signets, Panthers and Corgis just from the common ones). Fortunately, an obsessive mind, a flat bed scanner and far too much time to myself has left me with a pretty comprehensive collection of front cover images I plan to share from time to time in this blog. Of course, for every genre and publisher, there’s a comprehensive and beautifully illustrated website and often a dedicated blog, so I’ll not be trying to outdo their expertise and instead signpost where some of the best information can be found. But hopefully it’ll strike a chord and leave fellow sufferers feeling that bibliophilia, whilst dashed hard to type, isn’t a dirty word.