Booking Through Thursday: Collectibles

  • Hardcover? Or paperback?
  • Illustrations? Or just text?
  • First editions? Or you don’t care?
  • Signed by the author? Or not?

I used to try to get hardcover copies of all my books, especially classics, but now I really prefer the trade paperback versions of books. Just much easier to move when it comes time to move.

I have some of my grandmother’s old books, a set of Mark Twain with illustrations and those are nice. I think most novels used to be illustrated. But unless the book is older, I don’t generally like illustrations.

I have a few signed first editions, one of which — Robert Olen Butler’s Had a Good Time — I bought at the Texas Book Festival. I like getting my books signed at the festival when I go, but I don’t actively seek first editions or signed copies.

One of my favorite signed books is a battered copy of Rick Bragg’s Somebody Told Me, a collection of Bragg’s newspaper stories. I took the book to the Texas Book Festival when Bragg was a presenter, before Bragg had his troubles at The New York Times.

He inscribed the book “For Todd, From one writer to another” after I told him I was at the time a newspaper reporter. He was one of the nicest writers I’ve met in person, and I had a feeling that if we weren’t holding up the line he might’ve had a conversation with me.

I learned a lot about feature writing studying Bragg’s stories. Nobody told me at the time I could appropriate an unpaid stringer’s work into my own without crediting it. Nobody apparently told Bragg such a practice was looked down upon, but that’s what he supposedly did.

I’ve written about my disappointment with Bragg in another post. I still have ambivalent feelings about him and his writing. His feature stories are wonderful examples of the form, and yet, reading them makes you wonder how much of the work was his own.

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