Sunday, June 26, 2016

Book Collections

  LUCY BURDETTE: Eight years ago, my wonderful stepmother died unexpectedly, which meant that we needed to move my dad (who had Alzheimer's) to be near my sister in Florida. And this meant that John and I needed to go to South Jersey to clear out his office. He'd been a book collector all his life – we didn't have the same taste, he preferred history to my fiction. As we were sorting through those books, deciding which would go to the library and which we would send to his room in an assisted living facility, we got a little window into his psyche. Here's an example of what he was interested in; as you can see he was fascinated with American Indians and their battles with white men. We got the biggest giggle out of his impressive collection of books about white women who'd been captured by Indians. Freud might've had a field day with that but I will leave it alone. 

If you look on my shelves, aside from the huge piles of mysteries and women's fiction, you'd find a big collection of foodie books. (This doesn't even count the horde of cookbooks I have in the kitchen, many of which I haven't looked at in years.) To me, food is so much more than eating to stay alive. And the people who write foodie books write about food as a conduit for relationships and history and love.

Reds and red readers, what are your book collections like, if you have them?

HALLIE EPHRON: I have a tiny book-lined office -- crime fiction, writing, and reference. If I acquire a new book one has to go out... that's the rule.

Jerry's cool collection
My husband, on the other hand, is a serious book collector. Old illustrated children's books, books about New York City, and birds are his sweet spots. He's also cheap, so most of what we have has been acquired at yard sales. And there's a TON of them in bookcases all over the house, so I'm sure my children will have a miserable time going through it when it comes that time.

Here's just a sample of some small books he has tucked in at the end of a row in a bookcase with glass doors. Irresistible, right? He's a keeper, too.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  Not many "collections"- but a few books I treasure. 
These are in my study: the beautiful Sue Graftons, just a few so far. And my Nancy-Trixie-Cherry Ames shelf.   There are bookcases all over our house, gosh, just about in every room, and one lining the hallway upstairs.  We just gave hundreds of books to the library, but you almost cannot tell. Which is so sad. I fear there are piles on the floor in my study, but they are behind a chair so you can't see them.  :-)  It's just so difficult to get rid of books.  Hallie, that's a good rule. But so far, not doing it!  (But then--it drives me crazy that I can't find the one I want. Somewhere in our house is the Ruth Ware book. But where?) (I know, it sounds like a who's on first...)

DEBORAH CROMBIE: A couple of years ago I purged about 400 books from my house. To be fair, some of them were loads of foreign editions of my own books, but most were just accumulated odds and ends. Don't worry, there are plenty left! But I have tried to be better about passing on things I don't think I'll reread. The shelves in my upstairs office (once again groaning and triple-stacked) are mostly to-read books, and the research books I've used for my novels. The shelves in the downstairs office are mostly mystery series that are "keepers" for me, and some fantasy and sci-fi. The bookshelves in the hall and the dining room, however, are an odd assortment of classics and children's books, biology, poetry, biography, and things long out of print. Here are a couple of my favorite shelves (looking forward to sharing some of these with Wren in a year or few!) That's two bookcases out of five in our hall, and there are two more in the dining room. Maybe I should purge again...

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I'm not sure if I'm a book collector as much as I am a book KEEPER. We have boxes of books in the attic. Shelves in the hallways and on the stair landings. Each of the kids has at least three bookshelves in their rooms. There are stacks in the bathrooms. In fact, the only place where they're aren't any books are downstairs in the cellar (too damp) and in the entryway (we need the room for coats, boots, etc.)

That being said, I do have a nice collection of books by other mystery authors signed to me, or to Ross, or just signed. I keep a bunch of them in this living room bookshelf/glasses tray/curio cabinet. The only ones I know for sure have any monetary value are the three first printing, first edition copies of IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER that I saved for the kids, currently going for $300 to $400 on ABE. Why didn't someone tell me to hang on to the rest of my author copies?!? I also have THE WHITE TRILOGY by Ken Bruen, a softcover published by Justin Charles & Co, Kate's Mystery Books imprint. It was brand new in 2003 when I bought it at her annual holiday party in Cambridge (remember how much fun those were?) and now it's worth between $300 and $400, too. Who knew?

Of course, I'm never going to unload any of my books, so I suppose it'll be my grandchildren who reap the financial rewards of collecting. Unless they're book keepers as well, in which case, these babies may never go on the market.

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Not really enough room in a NYC condo for collections of any kind (although that doesn't stop Noel), but I did put together a set of Random House children's classics for Kiddo. I started when I was in my twenties (a lot of them are my favorites, too!) and now he's been dipping in. I usually get him a new one every Christmas, too!

How about you Reds? what would we find on your shelves?


  1. Oh, books. A topic near and dear to my heart.
    I’d fail at Hallie’s bring one in, send one out rule because I can hardly bear to part with a book so, like Julia, I am a book keeper. There are books everywhere, even in the entryway.
    What fills my bookshelves? My treasured books by the Jungle Red ladies, mysteries, science fiction [especially Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury], and scads of children’s books collected over many years of teaching first graders. Lots of space books, too, both fiction and nonfiction. And there’s a bookshelf for my treasured Advance Reader copies of books, which I’d be hard-pressed to part with --- there’s just something very exciting and special about having an advance copy of a book . . . .

  2. Personally, I don't trust people who don't own books. Is that my justification for owing so many? Maybe.

    Children's books--three cases full, classics, mystery series--including most of the Reds, cookbooks, gardening, herbals and herb crafts, political autobiographies and biographies, bird and other identification books, coffee table books from photographer friends, art history, travel guides, books on horses and riding, two shelves of books on writing or editing, and entire bookcases (four, I think) of books about or related to sewing in some form. We have a special bookcase with copies of books Steve or I have written, or in Steve's case, provided photos for (he's actually written more than I have). How can I give any of them up?

    Ten years ago I had the library pick up 1,000 books (with no discernible dent, as Hank said), and have since needed to buy books for book club that I read years ago but gave away. Isn't that always the way?

  3. The books I buy and keep, I use the model I learned from Doris Kearns Goodwin who described her writing process. She has a room for writing, and when she is about to start a new book she empties it of all materials for the book just finished. It's empty except for a bookshelf with references she will need for her current book in progress and the few items she will need to read and write. It's comfortable but simple and without anything that is not needed to write the book. These books I keep, but when I am done they inform what I will do next.

    Oh, you meant for fun books, books I read, didn't you? They're everywhere. I have lots of hard copies, but I rely on audio books. For example, I love Harry Potter, and I have tons of CDs including two sets with the readers of the American version and the set I started collecting in England with the different reader. I have the corresponding hard copy books for each with both the children's and adult covers.

    I went to Oxford without realizing that the school I was staying at, Christ Church, is the school with the great hall, the one that was in Harry Potter. I always felt like I was in a dream world while there. I had tons of books mailed home from Blackwell's. It was great.

  4. Oh see, this is why you are our peeps! Love hearing your's so hard to clear out books, but we're still trying.

    And I love our new motto via Karen: WE DON'T TRUST ANYONE WHO DOESN'T OWN BOOKS!

    Hallie, on Jerry's books, will the grandchildren be allowed to read them?

    Hank, love your old mystery shelf. I so regret not having kept my childhood Nancy Drews etc!

    And Reine, that sounds like a great way to start any book. Maybe clearing the clutter will help clear the mind!

  5. THIS is why, though it's a lovely convenience, ereaders will not take over the world any time soon.

    Yesterday I brought home a signed copy of Paul Kemprecos's "Grey Lady" bringing back a series I always loved with Aristotle "Soc" Socarides. Only problem is figuring out which book to offload.

  6. I'm Bill, and I'm a bookaholic. My collection, more of accumulation, consists of thousands and thousands of paperback originals from the 1940s on up. The house is stuffed with books, on shelves and floors. I have two air-conditioned storage units full of books. More books arrive almost daily. I'm afraid the people from one of those hoarders shows are going to appear on my doorstep any day now. It's an addiction. Stop me before I buy more!

  7. I will be 70 years old in August, and I have moved a few times in recent years, so I have decided on a few rules to avoid being overwhelmed. When I finish reading a book, or listening to an audio book, I either give it to a friend and tell them to pass it along into the universe or I donate it to the local library book sale. As a result, the books on my shelves are books that I have not yet read. And the reason the shelves are pretty full is that the kind of books I haven't read are the more serious, non-fiction books that I think I "should" read. In the meanwhile, I read mysteries and they fly right through my life -- I read them enthusiastically and late at night then send them off to new homes.

    This rule does not apply to children's books which I keep forever. I am wondering whether I need the complete Nancy Drew (circa the 80s) -- I plan to show them to the Harry Potter obsessed granddaughter in July.

    And I pledge to read one "serious" book every week this summer. Maybe.

  8. Denise Ann --remember you have an addition to your collection : you won Rachel Howzell Hall's book ! Email me your address and I will send it to her ! H ryan at Whdh dot com

  9. And yes, I got all of those Nancy Drews and Trixies within the past 10 years or so… I agree, I have no idea what my mom did with my originals. They are all of the Nancy Drews from there what, 50s. Not the new ones where Nancy has a --gasp--cell phone.

  10. Julia has been purging books all summer, taking box after box to the local library. There are only a few thousand left.

    I, not so much. My e book library is up to 1500 or so, but they take up no space. The only hard covers/trade paperbacks I save are autographed first editions, mostly anyway. I do have a number of beautifull bound keepers, some in leather. When I was a child, my father bound me classics, lovely bindings and often uncut pages, from the Alfred Borzoi press. A good many of those have survived. None are first editions of course. I'm not that old!

    Oddly enough, my Kindle coversi are full of autographs, fun to look at. And decipher! Would have thought you were all physicians from the handwriting.

  11. Sorry I didn't join in this discussion. Just back from Europe and still a bit jet lagged. John and I tried to weed out our many books. As fast as he took one from the shelf I was right behind saying "I might read that again." And he was right behind me when I tried to weed. I have taken boxes and boxes to the friends of the library sale--paperbacks I read and enjoyed but I can now get as Kindle books if I want to read them again. But I have kept every book Agatha Christie wrote. A whole bookcase full of signed mysteries from friends and fellow writers. A bookcase of wonderful leather-bound volumes from our ancestors. I rarely buy books now, except books I want signed from friends.

  12. “Fill your house with stacks of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks.”
    ― Dr. Seuss

    Books! A favorite topic for us all!

    I have a short video at Meanderings and Muses of only some of Bill Crider's book collection and it is awesome beyond words.

    Like many of you, I'm more a book keeper than collector, but . . . yes, I do have a few small collections that I will never part with and they'll go where I go when I go. At the top of that list are the personally inscribed first editions from Pat Conroy and personally inscribed ARCs from Louise Penny and Hank Phillippi Ryan. And one of Margaret Maron's manuscripts.

    Along with those are the books in which I'm mentioned in the acknowledgements (my thanks, along with some happy tears, again to Hank, and to Ellery Adams and Margaret Maron) or surprised by an author with a small character named for me - Margaret Maron surprised me and Donald with this in different books. She refers to Donald as "that handsome Don Barley." He loves that.

    And the many books from the many authors I admire and have met and who have inscribed books to me.

    Those are my collections that mean the world to me.

    And there's a small collection of pop-up books I love.

    And my old Nancy Drew books.

    I love this topic!

  13. A 'friend' in college tried to fix me up with a guy who DID NOT READ. As in, did not own a single book. Not even the newspaper! Fugeddaboutit! And the saddest comment I ever heard, from my nephew--"Aunt Flora, you don't understand. Some of the kids I know are amazed when they come over and see all the books. They don't have any books at their house."

    And I'm a keeper, with a much purged collection--just keep things near and dear to my heart these days--the ones where the pages are starting to fall out because the book's been reread so many times.

  14. Anyone remember Sue Barton Studentt Nurse?

  15. Sue Barton....was from me, hit wrong button

  16. Oh, Sue Barton, Cherry Ames, Nancy Drew, and most favorite of all, Trixie Belden! I saved them all and now my youngest daughter (who told me yesterday that I am about to be a grandmother for the first time) has them. My husband d keeps trying to get me to get rid of books and I keep saying "why would you want to do that?" We have bookcases in every room except bathrooms and laundry and I've considered adding some there. One of our bathrooms is papered with book covers. Visitors love it! They always ask if we've read all these books. Our answer is that at least one person in our family, several people in many cases (see Barbara Peters and Bernard Cornwell). We love books!

  17. Book hoarder---book keeper. I'm not sure if there is a difference, but yes, I am one of them. Karen is correct- don't trust people who don't own books! A few days ago an acquaintance told me "I never read." I was as shocked as I would be if the person had said "I cheat on my spouse all the time"!

    I live in a tiny condo, with books piled up everywhere. There are also boxes of them in the basement. A few years ago I donated hundreds of books to a library. As others here have said, you'd never guess that from looking at my bookshelves. When I buy books now, I only buy books that I know I'll want to reread. That's still a lot of books!

    Some of my collections -- not all of them, and I'm not even including the mysteries--include bird guides and books about birds, books about beach ecology, natural history, cookbooks, humor books, books of essays, childhood favorites such as the Betsy/Tacy books, the Little House on the Prairie books, other childhood favorites, The Chronicles of Narnia( which I read for the first time in my twenties), books about herbs, various history books, and so much more! There's not enough time to list the rest of my collections. I miss many of the books I gave away, by the way!

    Deb Romano

  18. Bev Fontaine, congratulations of the coming grandbaby!

    Lucy, I want your bookshelves. I LOVE books about food and cooking. I have quite a few but nothing to equal your collection.

    Karen, so funny. In my books, Duncan, having grown up in a house filled with books, always judges suspects and witnesses by whether or not they have books. He can't help it. I can't help it, either.

  19. The first author I collected was Mary Stewart, then about 25 years ago I started collecting Agatha Christie (I have them all). Then came Martha Grimes, then Deborah Chrombie, Julia Spencer Fleming and Louise Penney. I enjoy many authors but these are my favorites. I figure they will always be there for rereading. I have several bookcases full of books, as you probably can tell I read a lot! Love this blog.

  20. And Deb, please forgive me for misspelling your name. I didn't notice until I have already posted my comment. By the way this is my first post on this blog.

  21. Where to begin? I am definitely a book keeper and to a lesser degree, a book collector. My claim to fame in the book collecting department is a first U.S. edition of the first Harry Potter book, which I recently saw was worth five to six thousand. I bought it for my son before the Harry Potter books became insanely popular here. It is my son's when he wants it, along with the rest of the Harry Potter series. I started buying two of each around the third book in, so my son and I could read the book at the same time. What a bonding experience that reading was for us.

    To say that my house is full to bursting with books is probably an understatement. I have built-in bookshelves in the family room, the little library room, and a bedroom. These are large units with lots of shelves. In the remodeling/refreshing of the house last year, I added a new large bookcase with glass, something I'd wanted for a while. Then there are smaller shelves and baskets and the copper tubs. Well, you get the picture.

    In my "collections" are the signed copies of so many mystery/crime books since I started going to Bouchercon and getting to know the Reds and other amazing authors. And, there were book events and authors before Bouchercon. I have Pat Conroy signed books from an event where I heard him speak, one of the best events ever! I have Diana Gabaldon Outlander signed books, Scott Turow signed books, Sena Jeter Naslund signed books, and some more. I keep meaning to organize my books where the signed ones are all together, but that would take up at least one unit and mess up my variety approach. Oh, and I have one shelf filled with my collection of the Best in Children's Books series from 1960 (maybe year before and after, too) when I was six-years-old. There are around 25 of these books published by Doubleday that contained well-known stories, other stories, and a cultural piece about another country. The one I'm looking at right now contains "The Wonderful Tar-Baby and Other Brer Rabbit Stories" and a fun piece entitled, "How to Send Secret Messages." Sometimes there would be a fairy tale in them. Oh, Kaye, I have a collection of pop-up books, too.

    One of my favorite aspects of having so many books is that my granddaughters, who love to read, are in wonderland when they are here. In fact, we have just recently started a check-out system from "Grammy's Library," where we use a library kit you can buy with the old-fashioned check-out cards and pockets. On my refrigerator are two pockets, one for each girl, with their current checked-out books. Did I mention that I have lots of children's, young adult, and teen books, too? I love that they think of me as the book grammy.

    And although I do try to keep my books from overrunning tables and eating spaces, I contend that you can't be called a hoarder if you can walk through a room. Hehehe!

  22. Oh, my current FB cover photo is of one of my book shelves in the unit in my little library room. It shows one of my reading gnomes, of which I only have 3 or 4, but love dearly.

  23. We need to do a major purge of books here. Even my husband is willing, and a lot of those books will be his. I read Nancy Drew and the Dana Girls forever. And these were the old ones printed in the 50s but written much earlier. My father decided I didn't need those taking up room while I was away in college. He gave them away. I still can't believe it. Mom told him not to. They tried to make amends later by buying any old Nancy Drews they saw. Collections. . .mysteries. Love mysteries. Sometimes I get them out of my system and am ready to pass them along. Like Sookie Stackhouse. I believe she is exiting soon. I have a lot of mysteries set in the 1920s and 30s. I don't think I'll ever tire of those. I have nonfiction about the Great War. I have a collection of new and old books about the great state of Texas. I have most of my childhood books Mom got through a book club. She never has understood the attraction of Dr Seuss. I have a bunch of old Dick and Jane books, and some of their friends. Their lifestyle and neighborhood (snow in winter! wearing a sweater to school in September!) was so foreign to a little girl in Houston. I have all my ARCs and autographed books from you Reds and guest writers and other writers. It is just such a joy to have that connection.

  24. Deb, I also base much of my understanding of others by what is on the bookshelves. Or, worse, the lack of books and bookshelves at all. It is beyond me how anyone can't be a reader. Yet I can count six of our friends right off the back who aren't.

    I babysat for a couple a few years ago, didn't take a book thinking I would pick up something at their house, was only going to be there an hour after all. The only reading material I could find was "What to Expect When You're Expecting" or some such drivel. Never again.

    My worst fear is that I'll be caught for more than ten minutes without a book.

  25. Bill, no no no to the storage units--that's where I must draw the line:)

    Bev, big congrats on your wonderful news!

    Debs, love that Duncan judges people by whether they are readers. Like Ann, I would be desperate without a book. I can't understand not reading and find it so sad. A good friend came to visit us in Key West--probably a 5 to 6 hour trip and she had nothing to read! I would have gone mad...

  26. I love how the Reds blog gets me researching things. I did some more research on my Best in Children's Books published by Nelson Doubleday in 1957-1960, and one of the attractions to collectors for these children's books is the early illustrations of some artists. For example, my 1959 27th edition, one of the ones most sought after, has illustrations by Andy Warhol for a piece on "Card Games Are Fun." While I have the first editions of these books, 38 I've counted of the 42, there are later editions, too. Here's how you can identify which you have. Oh, and the volume number for the book is found on the lower right hand corner of the back flap and after the copyright information on the front and back covers.

  27. "Reds and red readers, what are your book collections like, if you have them?"

    If we have them????

    Okay, my office is filled with mysteries (and miniature mystery scenes) for inspiration. Including the first six Trixies (actually, I have 9, because I needed the non-glossy editions of the first 3 books. Trixiephiles know what I mean.) Plus reference books, of course. Other subcollections include WWII Home Front Memoirs. 20th century women's memoirs. Travel memoirs. D E Stevenson. LMM.

    And so on.

  28. Oh, yes book collections! I recently moved a bookshelf + books from the bedroom to the living room due to an overnight raindrops-in-the-bedroom event (will sort that problem out and move the books back).In so doing, it became evident that I have several types of books that are keepers in my world: foodie books, WW II books, books from my childhood -- pony stories, Sue Barton the nurse, and various others, including Gemma in the theatre. I keep my mystery books on a shelving unit in the downstairs office - no damage from stray overnight raindrops; phew. ...I've tried to get rid of books, but am only successful when I can pass them along to the local library sale. Otherwise, they stay on the shelf; what better place for long-time friends?

  29. Books. Oh, yes. We moved from a 900 sq. ft. condo to a 3,200 sq. ft. house, mostly to accommodate two things, my books and so my wife could have a separate room quilt studio instead of the sewing-machine-on-the-dining-table thing. So what happened with the space?

    One bedroom dedicated to floor to ceiling adjustable oak bookcases on three walls (windows and comfy chairs on the fourth). That rom holds paperback mystery and paperback science fiction /fantasy. A second bedroom with floor to ceiling walnut bookcases on two walls, a table and loveseat below windows and walls pace for art. Those shelves hold hardcover science fiction/fantasy. Another section halls some art books, graphic novels, poetry and a couple dozen Tom Swift Jr. books.Then we had the entire dining room wall (14 ft.) with stained birch with tall shelves under, for large art books and such, and regular sized shelves, 6 rows high. That's the hardcover mystery books. Another room, my wife's small office (her quilt studio takes up the large family room downstairs) has nonfiction and some non-genre fiction including my beloved Lawrence Durrell collection.

    I have many signed and inscribed books, but they al mix happily with the others on the shelves. I couldn't imagine living without books or reading!

  30. Love books! Since I live in a small space (900 sq. ft), I need to decide which books to keep and which books to donate to my library. Most of the books that are in my book collection are no longer in print. A long time ago I bought all Evan Evans books by Rhys Bowen and Connor Westphal books by Penny Warner. Although I am not a big fan of romance novels, I loved Barbara Cartland novels. I have a few BC novels in my collection. I have the Nancy Drew Book Club books from my childhood ( gift from my attorney grandfather).

    Other books are still in print and I kept them so I can reread them. All of the Maisie Dobbs books by Jacqueline Winspear and books by Alexander McCall Smith. I have some Lady Georgie books and Molly books by Rhys Bowen. I have all Maggie Hope books by Susan. I kept several new books by authors whom I met at malice this year.

    I also have history books by Antonia Fraser, David McCullough and Doris Kearns Goodwin. In my collection, there are some biographies. Cookbooks are in the kitchen.