I never thought I was collector of anything. I tried to start collections but always lost interest or found the collections sort of stupid; like Bert collecting bottle caps on Sesame Street. Why would you collect bottle caps, what’s the use of those?
I tried collecting stamps for awhile. I bought one of those “starter” books that had a plastic window with five or six stamps in it. I stuck with it for bit, carefully peeling stamps off letters and sticking them in a notebook. But I never really understood stamp collecting. Once they were used, you couldn’t use them again. Postage rates were always changing and what’s the point of collecting and keeping a bunch of stamps? No one ever got rich off collecting stamps.
I tried rocks too. Again, I bought a starter book that came with a box of small rocks and a card stock organizer to keep them in. I was in the middle of the desert, how hard could rock collecting be? The problem was there weren’t any cool rocks close by and rocks didn’t really do anything. You could classify them and look at them, and then what?
So then, much to my parent’s horror, I thought key chains would be the way to go. I seriously had a zillion key chains, anything that resembled something that could hold a key went on my “key chain chain.” Of course ten key chains to hold the one house key you have in junior high is truly fantastic, so I quickly lost interest in that. I started collecting buttons.
I pinned them to this thin vintage sash my mom let us have to play dress up with and hung them from my stuffed animal hammock. Did I mention I collected stuffed animals as well? And of course in elementary school was the obligatory sticker collection. Needless to say I had a lot of collections. Once my room was bursting at the seams with useless crap, I decided it was time to stop collecting anything. And for awhile I stuck with it. I didn’t collect anything for the entirety of my senior year in high school. I thought I was free of the collecting bug I didn’t need to collect anything. I didn’t want to collect.
That is until I came to Seattle. When I moved here I left almost all my books at home. I figured I’d be reading books for classes and partying it up so much I wouldn’t have any time for leisure reading. It all started innocently enough. I got ahead on my school reading, there weren’t many parties to attend at SPU (at least none I knew of) and suddenly I found I had time to read. I read the few books I had brought with me to school and suddenly I was out of things to read. I talked with a few people on my dorm floor and they suggested nearby Fremont that had a great used book store called Twice Sold Tales (now called Ophelia’s Books in honor of their late kitty). I headed over with a few friends, stayed for hours and left with a couple books. As I grew more comfortable with venturing out into the big city I discovered the astonishing amount of bookstores. Suddenly I couldn’t control myself, I had to go to these bookstores, and browse. And I had to buy!
I haven’t been able to kick this habit. I used to think of it as just some sort of hobby…or obsession. Put a bookstore in front of me and I’ll go in and most likely buy something. I never really thought of it as a collection before, I didn’t think anyone really collected books. I finally started referring to all the books I owned as a book collection this past Christmas when my husband gave me Book Collector, which is software that keeps track of all your books; what you have, what you want, who’s borrowing them, when they should bring them back.
So I collect books and now that I know that I embrace it. I have over 461 books, plus the three I bought last night at Fred Meyer, cause they were on sale, buy two get one free with the coupon! I also rationalize my collecting. I love books because they can scare you, make you cry, make you angry, give you hope, inspire you and be a friend.
If I’m struggling with a bit of writer’s block I feel no guilt just closing my computer after two sentences and opening a book. Doesn’t matter which book, as long as I’m reading I feel good. If I were to turn on the TV or watch a movie I would sit there disappointed in myself for being so lazy all the time. But a book can inspire me, a book can give me ideas, a book can even help me find reasons why a certain character of mine is acting a certain way. Like I said it doesn’t matter what I read. I love so many authors it’s impossible to pick a favorite. Put almost anything in front of me and I’ll read it and probably like something about it. Even smutty romance novels have their place on my shelf. After reading Germinal, no way am I going to pick up War & Peace, I’m going to pick up a Danielle Steele. Of course I could read a million Stephen King’s in a row and not complain. I’d be jumpy, but I wouldn’t complain.
All this to say I love my collection of books. I love to see them on the shelves, I love the smell of ink and glue and I love that each one is different.