When I was twelve, my family vacationed in Traverse City, on the Northern peninsula of Michigan. I took to wading in the shallows of the lake and digging for Petosky stones, which are small rocks covered in hexagonal fossilized patterning (often only visible when the stones are wet). Now, they’re not actually too uncommon there, but it’s the only place in the world they exist. In the few days we were there, I must have gathered up fifty of them to bring home.
No one else in my family was particularly good at spotting them amongst the other rocks on the beach. They got bored and gave up. But I meticulously combed the shallows, eagle-eyed and obsessed with plucking them out of the water. It wasn’t about the rocks being valuable, or useful. It was the thrill of the hunt. Of finding the things that no one else could, or cared to. Every rock was a trophy awarded for its own discovery.Now, I can’t buy books without dustjackets anymore.
I’ve tried, and I just can’t do it. I am compelled by unseen forces to buy the hardcover, complete with jacket. But it wasn’t always this way. In the days of yore, I couldn’t possibly have cared less. I always bought paperbacks. They were cheaper. They were smaller, so I could store more of them. They were lighter, easier to carry; simply more convenient. I wanted them to read, and that’s all.
After all these years dealing with books, I’ve shifted into a state of mind where I want more than just the words. I want them stored in the most regal medium possible. I want the glossy jackets displayed proudly; symbols that these were the real books, the originals. Paperbacks feel like impostors to me, or at the very least, inadequate imitations. I’ve discarded most of my old ones, and replaced them with jacketed copies.
Very few of my books have any value, and there are quite a few I will never, ever get around to reading. But there’s a strange part of me that wants to have that perfect, jacketed copy anyway. Just to have it. Just because it’s not always enough just to read it. Real Petosky stones only come from Michigan, and a book isn’t complete without a jacket. Some of us who really feel like our books are part of us won’t settle for anything less.
What is it about books that you just cannot do without? We’d love for you to share your story, too. Thank you Austin!
Interested in learning more about our Antique, Rare & Collectible department where Austin works? Visit here.