Some of my old books are so excessively seedy that, along with old newspaper and New Yorkers, they should be recycled. The question? Do these books deserve replacement? Or should I hang on to the old copies?
Take Margaret Drabble’s The Waterfall. The one on the left (below) was my first copy, and it survived two reads. That’s Drabble on the cover: several in this series have photos of Drabble as cover art. A few years ago, I bought a second reading copy for $1 at the Planned Parenthood book sale. To be honest, this one is shabby, too, and I’m not sure it will survive another read! (And, by the way, this is a very good but neglected novel. I posted about The Waterfall here in 2013.)
How about Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd? The new movie has spoiled it for me temporarily, alas, because I keep picturing Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba and Matthias Schoenaerts as Gabriel! And that just doesn’t work in a book. Below is the battered Signet edition, either mine or my husband’s, because we had many duplicates. When it became disgracefully worn, I bought this Heritage Press edition with illustrations, and also a very cheap Modern Library hardback, which can knock around in my bike pannier without damage. I do dislike the TV-series tie-in dust jacket, but this hardcover will last. And I can take off the dust jacket.
One of my favorite novels is Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. The Norton was my first “grown-up” edition of Wuthering Heights. I bought it used, and though it is still readable, it has been read in the bathtub a few times too many. And so when I found the illustrated Heritage Press edition at a used bookstore, I had to have it. It is a sturdy book, with lovely illustrations, and has survived many reads!
Here are some pix of books that have seen better days.
This 1956 edition of Horace: The Complete Works lasted four generations. My husband and I both used it in our Horace classes (different years). But, as you can see, the 21st-century has been too much for it.
My Modern Library paperback of Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady finally fell apart. The Heritage Press edition (left) is oversized and too hefty for a comfortable read, so I bought this mint-condition 1983 Modern Library hardback (right), from a local dealer, who delivered it to my house. Now that’s good service.
I can’t enjoy Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford because the spine is cocked! Should I read it? The pages of My Lady Ludlow and Other Stories show some signs of wear, but the Oxford is still readable. Go figure!
When, if ever, do you replace your books?And if you buy used, what condition do you look for: Like New, Very Good, Good, or Acceptable? (I often find that “acceptable” is the same as “nightmarish.”)