Echo and Bounce

Duplicate fiction

Jolie and I are both keen readers and have both collected quite a few books during our years apart. Every shelf is covered in books, and practically every flat surface has at least one book on it.

However, since we moved in to this place last April/May, I’ve been annoyed by the lack of order to our book collection. When we arrived, we just took books out of boxes and shoved them into the nearest shelf with a gap. I’ve been threatening to organize them all for some time now, but … well, there’s almost always something more interesting, important or urgent to do.

It’s annoying because there’s a silly way in which my books form a part of my identity. It’s silly for so many reasons. I haven’t curated my own book collection very carefully. If I look at the books there I can tell there are many formative books in my own experience that are missing, and that there’s a lot of mostly harmless entertaining junk. I wouldn’t want someone drawing conclusions about me from my bookshelf.

And yet they are the possessions that I value most, and the ones that I’ve kept with me through many moves and many years. A friend of mine, commenting on a difficult move to another city said, “Home is where your stuff is”, that having your belongings around makes you feel like you belong.

Anyway, yesterday I came down with a cold. I don’t know how it is for you, but whenever I get a cold I alternate between langour and manic fits of dizzy, half-crazed buzzing. There’s not   enough focus to channel it into useful hacking or study, but it’s great for doing menial tasks.

So today I’ve used a couple of spare hours to get the poetry, plays and fiction separated from the rest of the books and sorted alphabetically by author. I can’t tell you how good it feels to look at them all lined up in order.

One pleasant outcome is that it made it really easy to identify the books that we both own. We both know our taste in fiction overlaps quite a bit, but how does that manifest itself in our library? Well, now we know:

Our duplicate books

Here’s what they were:
  • The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, Douglas Adams
  • The Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Susanna Clarke
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
  • A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
  • Collected works of John Donne (two different editions, but my copy is a strict subset)
  • Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman
  • The Princess Bride, William Goldman
  • Dune, Frank Herbert
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  • Ulysses, James Joyce (yes, we’ve both read it)
  • Paradise Lost, John Milton
  • Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon
  • Ivanhoe, Sir Walter Scott
  • The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien
  • War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy (see Ulysses)
We have other duplicates, but they either from within our respective collections or they are gifts that we gave each other in our early courtship, and thus don’t really count.
  • The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula LeGuin
  • A Clash of Kings, George R. R. Martin
  • A Storm of Swords, George R. R. Martin
  • Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
  • Hamlet, William Shakespeare
  • Henry V, William Shakespeare
  • Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Book of the New Sun (volume 2), Gene Wolfe
I don’t know what’s more surprising. That we both own Gravity’s Rainbow, or that we both finished it.