Why I have so many copies of the same book

I have two almost identical paperback sets of J.D. Salinger’s complete works because I wore the first set out. The covers had become soft as pajama flannel, the pages marred by little tears an inch down from the corner where I sometimes turned them too fast. So, I got another set (which is already looking pretty well-loved too).

If you find yourself nodding in agreement that this is totally normal behavior, then let’s fangirl over books together for a moment.

At first, it might seem like overkill to have more than one copy of the same book (however much you love it), let alone half a shelf full or more, but hear me out. For those stories that hit you just there in the heart, the ones that change your entire perspective of life, open your eyes to a new idea, stretch your imagination, or just help you feel a little bit more understood in this gargantuan and often intimidating world, sometimes one copy simply isn’t enough.

Let’s break it down.

The Lit Class Copy

For many bibliophiles, a special place on the shelf is reserved for the paperback that sacrificed its beauty for the development of your brain. Coffee stained, spine broken and scribbles of notes in margins, this is a book that changed you. It reveals as much about who you are as it does about the characters the author describes. There’s no lending out of this copy, unless you’re ready for someone to see straight into your bookish soul.

The Traveler

That being said, sometimes you find a book so wonderful you have to share it with everyone you know, so you pick up a gently used copy to lend to all and sundry. *This also precludes the problem of not being able to reread a book at will because you lent it to someone.

The Anthology

Anthologies and collected works are often beautiful tomes that provide a certain sense of security and satisfaction that you do, in fact, own everything of an adored authors’ work. It also means you often sneak in an extra copy of a book without even realizing it.


It’s not everyone’s cup of tea to read Cervantes in the original four-hundred-year-old Spanish or The Three Body Problem in Liu Cixin’s native Chinese, but if you haven’t compared the British and American editions of Harry Potter yet, aren’t you dying to now?

Judged By Its Cover

Beautiful cover art and illustrations—need I say more? There is something so satisfying about reading a book with an actual cover versus a glossy miniature of a movie poster. Amirite?

The Electronic Edition

There are times when Google simply cannot get you the answer you require (yet), particularly when it’s buried in chapter eleven of the author’s preferred text published in 2003. Why not have access to it at your fingertips on your phone or tablet so you can scratch that literary itch whenever it strikes?

The Everyday Copy

Don’t forget the most important one: the everyday copy. It’s the one that gets thrown in your bag or the front seat of your car. It lives on your bedside table. It’s the one you know, every ink smudged and dog-eared page. Your copy.

I’m not saying this is necessary for every book you read. This is solely for the treasured ones, the ones that letterpress themselves in your memory, and that you quote when you can’t seem to find your own words to express how you feel. If you think about it, a sampler of an important book is essential for any reader, and should be celebrated accordingly.

[Image via Searchlight Pictures]

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