A few weeks ago, I wrote about some of the books I got rid of during my latest decluttering session.
In that post, I talked about wanting to be more intentional in my purchase of books. That I want a carefully chosen collection of books; one I’ll genuinely cherish for the rest of my life.
So, to balance my decluttering post, I thought I’d talk about some of the books I’ve bought this past year.
First though, when I say “collected” that doesn’t necessarily mean I paid a great deal of money.
In most cases, I spend a lot of time finding “the right edition.” For me, that doesn’t equal the most expensive one. It’s more a feeling, the one that best represents how I “see” the book. If I don’t find it, I don’t buy a copy; no matter how much I love it.
So, without dragging things out, here are five(ish) books I collected in 2019.
(Valhalla – The Complete Collection)
Valhall is a Danish comic-book series produced 1979-2010. It’s one of the most successful Scandinavian comics ever made.
The series is a loving, humoristic adaptation of some of the more entertaining stories from Norse mythology. It’s made up of fifteen loosely connected stories and includes personalities like Thor, Odin, Loki, Freya, and the rest of the Norse pantheon.
This comic is one of the reasons I fell in love with Norse mythology as a child.
It will always be my favorite version of the Norse gods. Not necessarily because it’s the best, but it’s certainly the funniest.
Valhall has never been hard to acquire. But, investing in the complete series—usually collected in five “library editions”—is something I’ve always thought of doing but never prioritized.
Last year, the current Swedish distributors—a small publisher called Apart Förlag—decided they wanted to release a box-set for the series fortieth anniversary.
They created a Kickstarter campaign.
Doing the math, I realized that, despite the two-hundred-dollar price tag, backing the campaign would be cheaper than buying the entire series one album at the time. It was one of those opportunities that just pop-up when you happen to have a bit of extra cash. So, I decided to buy myself an early Christmas present.
It turned out to be a smart decision.
The Kickstarter campaign went on to be Sweden’s most successful Kickstarter ever, bringing in over 250.000 dollars in a month. Because of my pledge and the many “stretch goals” that were added as the money flooded in, I didn’t only get a “box-set,” this thing is a beast.
Unfortunately, this comic is not available in English. I know it’s been translated to several languages, including German, French, and Indonesian, but alas, not English.
Investing in an English edition of Tolkien’s work is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.
I recently decluttered my Swedish editions of Bilbo, The Lord of the Rings, and Tales from a Perilous Realm. I’ve only read The Lord of the Rings in Swedish once, about twenty years ago. Since then, I’ve read it, and Bilbo, several times, but always in English. I have no intention of ever reading it in Swedish again.
I was contemplating buying the edition published by the Folio Society, but never went through with it.
Then I found the Harper Collins Deluxe Slipcase Edition.
Apart from The Silmarillion, Bilbo, and The Lord of the Rings, this edition also includes The Children of Hurin, Beren and Lùthien, Unfinished Tales, Tales from a Perilous Realm, and The Fall of Gondolin.
It also includes other works by Tolkien like The Story of Kullervo, a translation of Beowulf, and his work in Old English like The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun.
I’m not planning to invest in all of them, Old English is not a language skill I plan to acquire. But I do want to—eventually—buy all the books that take place in Tolkien’s Middle Earth.
These editions are not cheap.
They’re priced from seventy-five dollars up to a hundred for The Lord of the Rings.
However, they are absolutely gorgeous. Every title has its own “extra” material, you’ll have to look up the separate titles to see the specifics. But, all include additional content in some form by Tolkien himself, Christopher Tolkien, and/or illustrations by Allan Lee.
To be fair, I’ve seen many other editions of, mainly The Lord of the Rings, that is perhaps more impressive, with several beautiful illustrations and fanciful covers. However, it’s usually only The Lord of the Rings, and sometimes Bilbo. But, to find a cohesive collection of editions that include all of Tolkien’s Middle Earth is a lot harder. Which is why I finally settled on these.
So far I’ve bought Bilbo and The Lord of the Rings. Next on the list is The Simarillion. Reading The Simarillion is one of my goals this year. I’ve tried once, several years ago, but never completed it. So, if I manage it this year, I’ll have the perfect excuse to splurge.
Compared to the previous titles, these books are not expensive.
Neither are they special or deluxe editions. They’re just lovely books.
Despite not being “special,” to me, these books—with covers featuring Tove Jansson’s illustrations—are the ultimate editions. For some reason, I also have a penchant for books with cloth-covered spines, I love them.
The one thing the bothers me is that the first book, The Moomins and the Great Flood, is a different size. But, since it’s not really an official Moomin book—you can read more about it in my post about The Moomins—I can live with it.
These are the most recent Swedish editions.
The Swedish company Förlaget is a new publisher controlled by the Jansson family and Moomin brand. The design is very close to the original, first editions, and in the colors that Tove Jansson once choice.
If you like the look of them, I know English editions with the same cover designs are available form the official Moomin shop. I believe those are marketed as collectors editions, but they’re very reasonably priced at around eighteen dollars, which is roughly what I paid.
These Neil Gaiman classics are not hard to find in collectors or special editions.
Like with The Lord of the Rings, I already owned these books, but they were in paperback, and I wanted a nice hardback edition.
My biggest problem in finding an edition I liked was that, when I enjoyed the design, these two novels were more often than not combine into one giant book. Or, American Gods was available in a fantastic volume, but there wasn’t a matching one for Anansi Boys. Not a big deal for most people, but it drives me crazy.
Finally, I found these English hardcover volumes with illustrations by Swedish artist Daniel Egnéus.
These illustrations aren’t in a style I usually gravitate to. But, for these specific books, I like them. I think they work well with the surreal storytelling and dream landscapes that Gaiman created.
My favorite thing about these editions—and the reason I eventually settled on them—is that the two American Gods novellas, Monarch of the Glen and Black Dog, are two separate books. I love that.
Obviously, it’s more expensive, especially since most editions of American Gods include both novellas. But, I love having them separate; for me, the extra cost is worth it.
Like with The Moomin books, these are not overly expensive. They range at around twenty dollars each for the full-length novels and eighteen dollars for the novellas—give or take a dollar or three in either direction—depending on where you buy them.
Let’s wrap things up with the cheapest purchase on the list.
In Sweden, there is an annual book sale that takes place during the end of February, “Bok Rean.” This sale includes all retailers. It doesn’t matter where the book is sold: a bookstore, online, or even the grocery store. If they sell books, they’ll participate in this nationwide sale beginning at a fixed date every year.
This is an excellent time to get that expensive hardback you’ve been eyeing all year. If you can find it. The books on sale are, with some exceptions, one’s released in the year leading up to the sale. Occasionally, especially in smaller bookstores, you can find older editions as they clean out their nooks and crannies.
That was precisely what happened with these illustrated editions of Jan Guillou’s Crusades trilogy.
I was casually browsing through one of the two bookstores on the small island I live, and there they were. A complete set of illustrated, hardback copies of this trilogy, printed twelve years ago. For four dollars each!
I hadn’t planned on buying these. I didn’t even know this edition existed. But, they’re books I enjoy and have reread since my first read-through over twenty years ago. I couldn’t pass it up.
Also, they’re super nerdy.
The “illustrations” are pictures of the places, medieval objects, paintings, etc. that are described, referenced, or mentioned in the books. It’s an illustrated edition for people who get excited about old stuff in museums. I do, so I bought them.
And there you have it, five(ish) books I’ve collected this past year.
These are not all the books I’ve bought in the past twelve months. But, I think this selection is a good representation of how I approach building my book collection.
Some purchases are expensive and well-researched, other’s well-researched and inexpensive.
Some, I unexpectedly stumble over when I haven’t dipped into my “fun” savings account for a while, others during a book sale.
What they all have in common is that they’re books I’ve read and reread, and I know I’ll read again. Even though they represent several genres and a wide price-range they’ve left a lasting impression. They’re stories I never want to forget.