It is indisputable that I own too many books, although simultaneously I believe one cannot own too many books. But I do have more than I can put on shelves, more than my home and office can hold, and many of my books are “stored” in the garage. A topic for another discussion is why I don’t use my Kindle. But for now I admit: I have a problem. I have agreed, in theory, to get rid of three books for every new one I acquire. This pledge (which is pretty much all it is, so far) has been approved of at home.
So, I realize that I have two copies of many books. This is understandable, right? You have a teaching copy of this or that, both a hardcover and a paperback of a book, a gift of a book you already own, a 25 cent copy at the library sale that you couldn’t resist. Many are the reasons I can rationalize for owning two copies of single book.
Then, I realized that there are also titles of which I own three copies. Can this be justified? Well, I can justify it to myself, but probably not to you. But let’s look at the titles of these thrice-owned texts and see if there is any rhyme or reason to it. It’s not a long, nor surprising (to me), list:
The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald. Actually there’s an edition of this I would like yet to acquire, with notes by Mathew Bruccoli.
Walden, or, My Life in the Woods, by Thoreau. My paperback Riverside edition from graduate school is the one with all my notes in it. I consult it often.
Mt Analogue, A Novel Symbolically Authentic Non-Euclidean Adventure in Mountain Climbing, by Rene Daumal. I have the first hardcover English version translated by Roger Shattuck. When I acquired it in the early 1970s it was the only one in print in English. I also have a copy in French (symbolic).
Under the Volcano, Malcolm Lowry. The newest one I acquired has a new intro by William Vollman which necessitated its acquisition.
Starlight and Storm: the Ascent of the Six Great North faces of the Alps, by Gaston Rebuffat. One at home, one at school, and one recently gifted to me by the great Bernie Wood, book aficionado, collector, hoarder, and friend.
Rebecca, Daphne DuMaurier. Didn’t realize I had three until I found one by accident in the garage. But I do love this book. One of my copies is a first edition that I paid pennies for.
Cascade Alpine Guide: Climbing and High Routes: Volume 1--Columbia River to Stevens Pass. Volume 1, Fred Beckey. First edition, revised edition, climbing partner trimming his library.
Yosemite Climbers Guide, George Myers. Yeah, I have three of these, too. I also have two of Steve Roper’s Yosemite guidebooks, both the red and green covers, and a couple Supertopos. Plus, Tuolumne Meadows which is also in Yosemite National Park.
When I think about it, none of the books on this list is a surprise. The situation is precisely as it should be.
Just to check, I searched out an on-line Hoarder’s Quiz on the internet. This was not a goofy buzzfeed quiz in which they ask what kind of chocolate you like and then tell you your life-expectancy (91 years, by the way, WOOT!). No, this was a “real” test on some mental health website. I took care with the answers, and gave the most honest responses I could arrive at. The result: yeah, “High Risk for Compulsive Hoarding.”
(Photgraph: Jeffrey Vasseur's shelf in his office at Valdosta State University.)