Geek With (Lots of) Books: Let’s Get OCD!

Welcome back. Last time we talked about me and my mania with collecting books. This time, let’s talk about completeness.

I like completeness. Obsessive/compulsive that I am, I want it all. I may never read it but I am not happy when I have only part of something. I want to see it all, to know that nothing is missing. It’s like working a jigsaw puzzle and discovering that there are missing pieces. The sense of accomplishment is not the same at that point. Total completion has that pride.

There are types of collecting. There is the accumulation of stuff, the massive accumulation of stuff, and the collection. I have had all these things. For example I have accumulated assorted science fiction and mystery titles over the last 50 years. I still have more than the average Joe, probably 2,500 titles. I have an accumulation of mysteries now (nothing that deserves to be called a collection) and I have a fine collection of Joe Lansdale.


The differences are vast. The accumulations are random and do not have to be any specific editions. I had an Edgar Rice Burroughs accumulation with a copy of every novel of importance (even Tarzan and the Tarzan Twins which is not really part of the Tarzan set in my opinion but I found a nice readable cheap copy). I am not driven to own first editions of every Heinlein book. I like his stuff and had all the books, many in hardback first. Not anymore. I still have some, mainly the young adult titles. I am not likely to spend the hundreds or thousands of dollars necessary to get a first of Stranger in a Strange Land or Rocketship Galileo. I enjoy the books but I like the money more.

So, when I collect someone, it is hard to limit the mania. Say, for example, I collect Joe R. Lansdale, which I do. He’s a long time friend and I really like his work. Now, Joe is a fairly prolific writer. He is not limited to merely the print options. No, he has to be out there in a variety of fields.

So, the question becomes, do I go for a) a copy (any copy) of all his books, b) hardback copies of all his works, c) first edition hardback copies of all the titles (some of his first editions are paperback originals), d) signed/numbered copies of all his works, e) super limited, bound in leather gold lettered spine silk bookmark glow-in-the-dark editions which also double as expensive drink coasters, f) any combination of the above on all US and foreign editions of his works, or g) all of the above! And, do I include all the first appearances of his shorter work? What about books he edited? And comics? T-shirts with book covers on them? How about his martial arts stuff? What about the comics and the variant covers? Spoken word? Film stuff? Where are the action figures? I want the (fictional) 1995 Joe Lansdale Todd McFarlane Shen Chuan gold variant with the lightning fast kempo stick action, real wooden knife, festering rabid squirrel bite, and fuzzy rabid squirrel.

For me the answer is a combination of c) and d). I have some of the British editions but am not manic about those, except when they represent the first hardback edition of a work, such as Act of Love, Dead in the West, The Drive In, and The Drive In 2. The short fiction is tougher. I have a lot of it because I was buying the books and magazines that he sold to at the time. Things like Cemetery Dance, The Horror Show, Espionage, and Twilight Zone. I wasn’t buying Mississippi Arts and Letters but he gave me one of those so I got it too. But, again, I’m not driven there. Mostly because I know that if “Valley of the Swastika” got reprinted, anything else that I have missed will be too. (Personal plug – Joe and I actually wrote a story together in the mid 1980’s called “Partners”. It never sold but does appear in For A Few Stories More. The good jokes are Joe’s.)

It gets more difficult when you throw in manuscripts, proof copies (or ARCs – Advance Reading Copies), and books with introductions by Joe. I have my fair share of those things, too. Some I bought, some I traded for, some were given to me. Some reside on the shelf I have set aside for books and magazines in which I appear since Joe was the editor on six of the books in which I appear. I have the ARC for Razored Sdaddles up there. Signed by a few of the fine folks in that volume.

I don’t go that far with everyone. Sometimes you just have to carry a list. Now, I used to make fun of people who carried lists. My laughter turned on me. I became the object of my own ridicule. I collected Gold Medal paperbacks under #2000 (I mentioned them before). There are over 1,900 of them and I am about 60% of the way there. They took up 1 and a half bookcases designed for paperbacks (9 shelves per case, 6 feet tall, 30 inches long) – just under 40 linear feet. They looked pretty cool with the (mostly) yellow spines all facing out and the many little medals at the base of the spine. And, early in the collecting, I collected only those with the medal at the base of the spine and rarely the reprints. This meant that I probably passed up many titles that I might otherwise have purchased.

I finally got the point of carrying an 8.5 x 11″ sheet of paper which told me what numbers I had and the general condition. (Yes, I know I could store all that data in a PDA but I did not have one and occasionally updating an Excel file onto a sheet of paper is much cheaper. I could have probably found enough uses for a PDA to justify it but I didn’t. Why spend the money for that when I could get a really cool book instead?) Madness, I know. Perhaps now that the library is a little more manageable. I still have bought a few duplicates in error. I know that I used to have it but did not remember buying a replacement. Wasn’t that how this whole thing started?

Obsessive compulsive! Thy name is Scott!

2 thoughts on “Geek With (Lots of) Books: Let’s Get OCD!”

  1. I have had the Luck to only obsessively collect one author but it was the start of my entire collection. My first signed book was a copy of Bradley Denton’s book “Wrack and Roll” witch I found through a book hunting service in the mid 90’s before things like ebay and addall. Luckily for my marrage he dosen’t write much so it is easy for me to be a completeist. I have a signed first print, ARC and reading copy for all of his mass printed books (5 of them) and at least 2 copies of every of his limited editions, one to keep nice and one to read, and have even been lucky enough to find a lettered edition for one of his books cheap on ebay. I have even spent $100 on a signed numbered short story anthology just to get ONE short story and as I find them I have been collecting the magazines the have the original prints of all his short stories. On a cheaper level I also collect Fahrenheit 451 stuff I have the Galaxy from Feb 1951 with the first apperance of the Fireman Signed (I’m lucky enough to live in southern California where I was able to go to a signing) along with the Signed 50th aniversery edition and the new graphic novel adaptation signed, add to those a copy of Match to Flame and close to a dozen different paperback editions (at least the wife likes F 451 and can understand this obsession)

    I dont have the money or space to collect much more than I already dobut one of my more recent problems is that I have been reading less SF and more thrillers and I have been haveing the problem of keeping some authors and books straight so while I have between 600 and 700 books I have begun putting the whole collection into a PDA, and while I dont think it will help me much on the collector side of things it should help me keeping track of who I have been currently reading esp sence I have gotten obsessive about reading series IN ORDER

  2. Michael – I am pleased to see that you have the OCD under some control.  And Brad Denton is certainly someone worthwhile to collect.  I had a very nice set of his work when I sold the big collection two years ago.  I still have some, including WRACK AND ROLL.  Not the cheapo British hardback that I used to have, but a decent enough American paperback (at least for now) amd BLACKBURN.  maybe a little more.  Bradbury on the other hand was a lot more difficult for me.  When I sold it, there was a DARK CARNIVAL, THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, THE ILLUSTRATED MAN, SOMEHTING WICKED THIS WAY COMES, and many more in hardback first editions, with djs and most signed.  FAHRENHEOT 451 was the one I had trouble with.  I had the Ballantine pb 1st signed.  I really wanted the hb 1st.  When I edited CROSS PLAINS UNIVERSE I set aside $1,000 to do that.  Never happened.  I couldn’t touch one for less than #2,500 and I loved my money more than that.  And, had I wanted the asbestos jacketed one – well, forget about that.  And yes, I am generally compelled to read a series in order, too.

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