It's no secret that my favorite author is Stephen King.

King was my entry drug, my segue from the world of Nancy Drew to grown-up novels. My mother deemed his books usually too adult for me, so I swiped them out of her bookshelf and left the dustjackets in their place so she wouldn't notice they were missing. I read everything he wrote, except the Dark Tower books because they were hard to understand.

As I grew older and began to appreciate the value of books as collectible items as well as purveyors of story, I began to collect first-edition hardbacks of King's work. I have never had the opportunity to meet the man and have him sign any of them, but I live in hope.

The problem is, I have a dreadful memory. Although I have read everything he has written outside the Dark Tower, many of those books were my mother's, not mine. I have often found myself in a used bookstore somewhere, staring at a hardback King and wondering, "Is this one I already have?"

I have an awful, terrible memory.

Once I tried to outsmart myself. I created a careful database of King's work, complete with each book I had, each book I still needed to get and the condition/value of each tome. (Anyone got a first-edition CARRIE? Didn't think so.)

The problem is, I never have my laptop on hand in a used bookstore, you know?

Recently, I attended a party at the home of a good friend. Aware of my predilection for King hardbacks, he offered me a first-edition hardback of SKELETON CREW, one of King's early short-story collections. He had no further use for it, he said. It was in good condition and I accepted eagerly. When I got home, I placed in the holding bookcase, the one most easily accessible in the main room of my apartment where new books live until I think to move them elsewhere.

This evening, I was looking for something to read. I looked at the holding bookcase and saw the hardback for SKELETON CREW.

On the shelf right behind it, I saw another hardback first-edition of SKELETON CREW.

Rats. I had it already.

I wandered into the bedroom, already mulling whether I should sell one of them on eBay - the one in poorer condition, of course - or put one in the Collection and save the other to actually read. This led my feeble mind to the subject of the Collection Bookcase, purchase pending, and I wondered if I had enough Kings by now to need a full bookcase.

(I should add that I was talking on the phone with someone while all this was going on. I multi-task.)

So I checked out the horror bookcase in the bedroom, where most of the Kings live.

There was another hardback copy of SKELETON CREW.

You're kidding, I told myself. I've bought this book twice and then accepted a free copy.

Then my eye drifted lower.

A paperback.

And another.

"I have five copies of SKELETON CREW," I said in amazement, as my gentleman friend laughed himself silly in my ear.

Five copies of the same book. That's how bad my memory is, ladies and gentlemen. I won't go into the two hardbacks of THE TOMMYKNOCKERS or INSOMNIA or the number of books for which I have both the original hardback and paperback editions - both collector's items, see?

It's not an addiction. I can stop any time I want to.

But five copies might be a little much. Even for me.


  1. Um... Why not just pringt a copy of your King data and keep it in your purse. It might not have helped at the party, but you could pull it out in the shops.

  2. I keep mine on librarything and Delicious Library. DL syncs to my iPod, so I can have my catalogue wherever I take the iPod, and LT is accessable on the Internet, so I can check it via cell phone in a pinch.

    Of course, just the act of catalogueing has led to me remembering better what is or is not in my library.


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