What makes a book a ‘keeper’? Why is it that Book A, a critically acclaimed literary masterpiece, venerable classic or New York Times bestseller, can be given away without a second thought while Book B instantly earns permanency on your small shelf of those titles you must own? Why can Book C be returned to the library while the borrowed copy of Book D must be replaced with a bought one that can be loved and treasured longterm?
I’ve talked about something similar before when I mentioned The Crow Road by Iain Banks, which is not only one of my keepers but also exists in the form of a mouldy old paperback we can’t bear to give up. It’s a slightly different phenomenon when you hang onto a particular copy of a book like this: it could be classified as a mild form of family lunacy and I don’t expect anyone else to follow my example. When I talk about keepers I mean any book you love so much you feel you must own a copy. I wondered what it was about these special books that makes us love them so much, and whether what is on our keepers shelf says anything about us as writers. [Read more…]