Jay Lake: Writer

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[books] How many books, and which ones?

Yesterday in comments, discussing my library card expedition, [info]rekre8 said:

but…but…how do you then STORE all the books? My library is about 5,000 books large (I know intimately, as I’ve been in the midst of a move), and I re-read constantly, and I use the library for items I’ll only read once or before I buy something from an author to see if I’ll like it, simply because one does not have the SPACE.

To which I responded:

I’ve probably owned 15,000 or 20,000 books in my lifetime. There have been three major culls starting in the year 2000, and I am now down to rather less than 5,000 in my house. But I have a pretty big basement. Space isn’t really the issue. (Two of the three culls were connected to relocation and not wanting to move hundreds of pounds of books.)

My current standard for keeping books is (a) will I ever want to re-read this, (b) will I ever want my daughter or some other person interested in SF to read this (presumably classic), (c) will I ever want to loan/give this book to someone because I love it so much I think they should read it.

Well, and there some books I think a person should just have, my own version of the science fiction essentials.

Which leads me to a few questions for you guys reading this.

1) How many books do you own?

2) Is there a reason (space, personal philosophy, funding) that your collection is the size it is?

3) Why do you keep the books you keep? (Bibliomania is a perfectly acceptable answer insofar as I’m concerned.)

4) What books do you consider essential?

I already more-or-less answered 1-3. Here’s a very incomplete answer to 4), for me, presented in no particular order.

  • Dune, the first three books, specifically
  • The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings
  • The Moon is a Harsh Mistress along with selected other Heinlein (nothing from Number of the Beast forward)
  • Bujold’s Vorkosigan books
  • Discworld (all of it)
  • Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun and Fifth Head of Cerberus
  • Anything from Delaney’s early career
  • The Left Hand of Darkness
  • Hal Duncan’s Vellum and Ink
  • Jeff VanderMeer’s City of Saints and Madmen
  • Jo Walton’s Among Others
  • Robin Hobb’s Assassin books

That list is grossly inadequate, even from my own reading experience, let alone all the books I haven’t read. On cursory examination, I also note that this list is thin on recent or contemporary work, thin on women writers, and thin on writers of color. You can almost chart when I grew up by the titles on it.

What do you say?

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