Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Collector

Whenever someone visits my home, one of the first things out of their mouth is, “Wow, read much?” Or something along those words. Why? Picture a library, with furniture—not library furniture (desks and chairs), but living room, bedroom, dining room furniture—and you have a snapshot of my house (“our” house—mine and my lovely wife’s, who besides being wonderful in countless ways, is a saint for allowing me to turn much of our home into a book lovers paradise).

I am a collector. Not just books, but a collector of many things collectible.

Is this a bad thing? A form of some obsessive/compulsive disorder?

Here is the Mayo Clinic description of Obsessions:

Obsessions are repeated, persistent, unwanted ideas, thoughts, images or impulses that you experience involuntarily and that appear to be senseless. These obsessions typically intrude when you're trying to think of or do other things.

And for compulsions:

Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that you feel driven to perform. These repetitive behaviors are meant to prevent or reduce anxiety or distress related to your obsessions.

I can relate to my collecting the words—repeating, persistent and repetitive. But not “unwanted ideas or images”—I WANT to collect. Does my desire to visit bookstores intrude on my thoughts when trying to do other things? Sure, at times, but that’s not a BAD thing, is it? Do I feel driven to collect? Again, sure, at times. And, again, not a bad thing…is it? Does collecting help reduce anxiety or distress? Ahh, some good news: not when related to my obsessions, which are still debatable. Okay, now I’m not just concerned about the possibility of my having OCD, but bordering on confusion and bewilderment that may appear to be senseless. Let’s skip the psychological evaluation portion of the program and get back to collecting.

I was talking about books. Okay, maybe I exaggerated about our house looking like a library—my wife may be a saint, but she’s not stupid. She has magically managed to tastefully distribute over twenty bookcases throughout the house while still able to maintain…oh, heck, the place reeks with books, almost 3000 of them! What can I say? I can’t help myself—I’m a collector.

My love for reading began as a boy growing up watching my dad devour paperback after paperback with delightful ease. He was a paperback juggler, able to read a half-dozen at a time, leaving dog-eared, food-stained, abused and battered pulps strewn throughout every room of the house. Yes, I always enjoyed reading, but collecting? I used to be like my dad—read a paperback with nary a concern for its safety, then toss it aside like a candy bar wrapper. Then one day, about two decades ago, something clicked inside my skull. While visiting a book store, I noticed a queue of folks, brand-new hardbacks in hand, waiting to meet an author. I grabbed one of the books for myself and joined my fellow readers, met, chatted with, and enjoyed watching this writer (Robert McCammon) autograph my copy—and like that, I was hooked.

I started collecting signed first editions from all the writers I already liked, then expanded my tastes and collection from there. My hobby quickly became a passion; my passion a vocation—one that has yet to show any signs of slowing down. I still love nothing better than leisurely perusing the musty shelves of a used book store in search of buried treasure in the form of an elusive first edition needed to complete a collected set of one of my favorite author’s works. I’ll figure out where to put it (my book cases are overflowing) later. I just can’t help myself. Why? You guessed it—I’m a collector.

And I don’t just collect books. I have happily amassed turtles and frogs (not the real things!), guitars and magazines (I cannot throw them out), globes and tea. Yes, tea! I have over fifty varieties of organic teas, mostly green, rooibos, and yerba mattes. And, yes, I drink my collection every day. That’s another great thing about my collections—they, for the most part, are functional. I read the books I collect, drink the teas, play the guitars, read the magazines. Okay, I admit it—I like to talk to my fake turtles too.

Eliminate the massive quantities of these items and I am basically your everyday normal person…save for a few idiosyncratic tendencies that shall remain nameless.

It is just me? This collecting thing? I don’t think so. Human beings are pack rats, they enjoy accumulating things—be it old newspapers, cabbage patch dolls (remember them?), hammers or Hummels. It could be worse— Jay Leno collects expensive automobiles . Besides being way out of my league cost-wise, imagine what his living room looks like. Oh, that’s right; he has a garage the size of ten of my houses. Makes sense—he also collects a much larger paycheck than I do.

How about you? Are you a collector?

I bet you are.

Until next time…




Unknown said...

Yep, I'm a collector too.

About obsessions. To make a difference between people who need treatment for their obsession or not we add a tiny bit:

harmfull to the person himself or others.

I haven't spoken to your wife, but as far as I can see, you're on the safe side. LOL!

Daisy said...

You can never have too many books! I, myself, collect cat toys. But my Mommie collects antique monkey memorabilia. She has many tiny old wind-up monkeys and also little hats from real-life organ grinder monkeys!

Anonymous said...

All right, I have hundreds of books, fountain pens, pipes, and...what will be next? I like whatever suggest me the idea of beauty, which I can observe in a platonic remembrance...Was Plato a collector?

I loved this article,
take care

Missy Carol Ann said...

"The Collector"--hey, I resemble that remark. I am a collector, most of it good but some of it bad. Good collections make you feel good when you look at them. Bad collections lead to clutter and looking at them does nothing good for you or your chi.

Like you, I love books and I especially love used bookstores. There is something magical about a used, locally owned, bookstore. I love to imagine where all those books have been and with whom.

Thanks for your great article which reminded me to go admire my good collections and to do some clean-up and throw-away actions on the bad collections. (Mostly of the paper variety that congregates in piles.

Anonymous said...

I used to collect books. But after filling four bookshelves and jamming books into every empty nook, I decided I need to stop. Being the practical person that I am, I realized that I can save the money from my book purchase. The library work just as well for me.

I trade my book collecting to workout dvds collecting. Like you said, I wonder if it is human to amass things.

tashabud said...

Hello, I came here through Eric's blog. Your post is wonderfully written. I enjoyed reading it.

You're a collector. My husband is a collector too. He collects many things as well. His latest interest are guns.

I like your style of writing, so you should expect me to be visiting again.

mkaw77 said...

I used to collect stamps before. As time passess by everything i left behind. Donno why? Maybe it old fasioned hobbies.

Merry K. said...

Used to collect bunches of STUFF.
Mostly antiques (depression era) and anything pioneer-ish, little-house-on-the-prarie-ish, etc. Anytime I found myself with more than 1 of something, I would keep getting more till I had developed a collection. It was fun. But then I had a child, changed my interests, and a second one...and decided to collect more of them too! I ended my collection with 5 irreplacable, one of a kind models, straight from heaven!

Anonymous said...

I used to collect tea cups, which I used, but stopped when I filled my china cabinet. I also collect depression glass, but now leave that up to my mother to go on a hunt for a special piece at Christmas. And whenever I travel, I always buy a ring made by a local artist. So, I think this makes me a selective collector. The piece must have a memory attached to it (gift from my mom, reminder of travel). And besides, I have moved waaaayyyy too many times to go hog wild collecting. I HATE packing!

Eric S. said...

I think we are all collectors in our own way. For me it is books and tools. Both I got from my father. My mother would collect crystal, pottery, "Fondue Pots" (kinda weird)but she holds onto every National Geographic she ever received. She even buys the boxes to catalogue them. I would imagine she has over 40 years worth.


I don't collect much because my grandfather never would throw a thing away. I was always terrified I would be that way too so I throw out everything! I do have the urge to collect and I love historical fiction books to collect. So I guess I have a small collection of those. Your collecting seems along the lines of a fun hobby.

Low Carb Ketogenic Diets said...

Me too... I love collecting tools, books and software programs. I wish I could find a way to collect time then I would have plenty... Of time that is... LOL. I'm digg'n.

Brenda said...

I collect information of all kinds: books, newspaper clippings, audio books, and now pdf files that I download from the interet. Hey, you never know when that information will come in handy!

Anonymous said...

Hey, nothing wrong with collecting books...I read a lot too! Though I have to say that by the looks of it, not nearly as much as you. I had a decent size bookshelf and had to dump it for a newer one. Thing is, when I read books, I tend to by them, not check them out from the library because I like to read them or reference them at some point later. Anyway, I wouldn't say that I'm a book collector, I just enjoy reading a lot.

What I do collect a lot of however are DVDs. I can't help myself. I used to by them in masses before but I've since calmed down (it's expensive)...

JuliS said...

AS I read your blog I thought about my own home and determined that yes, I have books in every room, too. In fact, my saint of a husband is putting a second story on our house, largely because he wanted to give me a place for them all -- and the hundreds and hundreds more he knows are still to come.

I am trying to focus on a few categories to collect instead of "everything" as I have been for about 30 years. I've loved books since my late father started taking me to the library every saturday when I was 4 or 5. I moved from Curious George and Madeline to Nancy Drew and then, from junior high until just a few years ago, read nonfiction almost exclusively. I rediscovered fiction right after my father passed away when my psychologist told me to try to "move outside my box" and experience different things.

My sister-in-law offered me the Jan Karon Mitford series and I was back into fiction. Now I typically have 2-3 going at one time, along with my nonfiction flavors of the week.

So, my focus now is books about books, older books on journalism, first editions of journalists' biographies or memoirs and the news industry, older books on writing, and photography monographs -- no particular photographers except Henri Cartier-Bresson, but subjects mostly people, cities, Weegee-style photojournalism. No "fur, feathers or flowers" as one colleague in my camera club put it.

My collection numbers about 3,000 now, and I know I need to start cataloguing it. A daunting task, but I'm trying to tackle it a few books at a time.

The Fitness Diva said...

My collector's weakness is foreign language books. I learn a language, and then it's ON! I buy every kind of book in the language, from children's books and comics, to magazines, novels, learning materials and "serious" subject matter.
I have books in Spanish, Italian, Mandarin Chinese, and have already started buying books in Japanese (my next language), even though I haven't yet begun my Japanese lessons!!! (beginner books first, of course!)
I don't know...that's just my thing!

And the funny thing is, I buy some of them before I can even completely read them. However, that does change with time and more studying!

My other weakness is fitness and sports equipment...I have every fitness device ever made...
Remember the Thigh Master? lol
It now collects dust in the closet next to my Buns of Steel video collection on VHS!
I'm in the gym everyday, anyway,
but still love to have my own equipment in the house, right at my fingertips.
Never know when there might be a fitness emergency! :D

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, I'm a collector too. Since I was a kid, i began to collecting stamps but it's for the last 5 years I think I'm now a professional stamp collector.

Now I'm a serious collector of stamps with whales and dolphins theme and because of that I'm considering myself a whale defender :)

My wife also collecting stamps, and she loves turtles. She also have great collections of turtle miniature, stamps, dolls and memorabilia.

Jena Isle said...

These are incredible collections, especially the books. Could you lend me some in case I drop by the neighborhood? (smiles)

I did collect stamps when I was younger, but now. I lost my collection and I stopped. I would like to collect minute things, like a miniature coke, a chair, etc.

Thanks for sharing.

Sandee said...

It would be books for me. My husband and I both love the smell of books. :)

Unknown said...

Wow, thank you for all of your wonderful and thoughtful comments. This was a fun post to write, one dear to my heart. It is nice to hear from so many other collectors out there--it lets me know that I am a bit less crazy than I sometimes feel.
Thanks again; I will visit each of your blogs over the next several days and return the kind words.


Anonymous said...

I like that talking about being a collector takes the focus off the materialistic way lots of people seem to look at things these days. It isn't about the stuff so much as it's about you. It's self-expression, creativity and enjoyment even and there's nothing wrong with that!

And I've got to say I love my books too. Oh boy, do I ever =)

WorldmedTourism said...

you is super book