In my living room there’s a near-ceiling high shelf crammed from top to bottom with books, all of them my own. I’ll occasionally lie back on the couch perpendicular to its placement and just gaze at it—not basking in it, but looking for structural weak points. I’ve been collecting comics and literature for the express purpose of building a library for the past seven years, and as a result I’ve turned this towering, six tier bookshelf into a camel fearing the coming of some straw-bearing harbinger. (I should add I have enough space for another shelf and will be more than welcome to accept any donations or freebies, wink wink.)
This week, I’m veering as close to narcissism as I fear to tread. Make no mistake: this is literary show and tell, and when I’m done you’ll wonder if I’m even capable of loving other people given how much I adore my books. So without further ado, here are the most prized tomes in my personal collection. Pictures have been cribbed from various sources online, as I don’t have a dedicated camera and I don’t want to answer any of my roommates’ questions about why I’m holding my laptop webcam up to the bookshelf.
House of Leaves
Hands down my favourite book, and to which this website owes its namesake, Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves is a frightening, borderline-impenetrable labyrinth of a novel that’s worthy of fifty essays on this blog, let alone one. This hardcover, along with its thick paperback counterpart, is the “remastered” full-colour edition of the novel, featuring blue and struck-out red text when appropriate as well as several illustrations throughout the volume. Larger Chapters locations, like the one on Rideau Street in Ottawa, will still stock this edition on occasion and if you can get your hands on it, do so. Just, you know, don’t read it late at night like I did, idiot that I was (and still am).
Walt Simonson Thor omnibus
I won’t spend too much time on this bit, considering I wrote a review of the book last month, but just to reiterate: holy crap this thing is heavy, maybe the heaviest piece of entertainment I own that isn’t a video game console, and man this thing is excellent. Walt Simonson is one of the best visual storytellers in the game and the recolouring job on this whole volume just emphasizes that fact. While it’s insane to recommend such a pricey and unwieldy volume I do suggest looking for the Marvel Visionaries paperback trades containing his run. They feature the same colour job, as well.
50th anniversary The Lord of the Rings editions
I picked all three of these up one autumn evening in my first year of university, in no way connected to the fact that I just remembered the 200 or so dollars remaining in my now-retired CIBC account. Featuring crisp dust jacket art based off of J.R.R. Tolkien’s own illustrations and fold-out maps, I feel these volumes do Tolkien’s epic the most justice, seeming both a little antiquated but elegant nonetheless.
DC Absolute editions
While DC’s management can fall in a well, man do they put out some good editions. I’ve fallen in love with their Deluxe editions, but the real jewels of their library are the Absolute editions—huge volumes contained in slipcases and packaged with a truck load of background info, interviews, sketch art and script excerpts. They’re the Criterion Collections of comics, and so far I’ve spent money—mostly Christmas gift money, I should add—on three: Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s Batman: The Long Halloween and Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All Star Superman. They’re great for showing off really subtle artists like Gibbons and Quitely, who are apt to include miniscule clues or hints in their work. And the quality of these things: imagine comics came in Blu Ray format. Expensive, but so worth it.
It 25th anniversary edition
No shit, I spent $170 on this thing, including shipping and handling costs. Granted, this was all with birthday money, but it’s also the biggest amount I’ve spent on any single volume outside of university textbooks and I don’t regret it for one second. It isn’t just Stephen King’s greatest book, it’s one of my top five favourite novels and alongside House of Leaves and Mike Mignola’s Hellboy comics one of the best representations of neo-Lovecraftian horror. The 25th anniversary edition, put out last year by Cemetery Dance Publications, has new illustrations and unsettling dust jacket art, two-colour printing and a protective slipcase that keeps my OCD corner-wearing fears at bay. And no I’m not showing off my advertising chops to Cemetery Dance why would you ever think that shame on you.
’salem’s Lot illustrated edition
’salem’s Lot isn’t just one of my favourite books, it’s a tradition of sorts. Every October since, oh, 2005, I’ve made a point of pulling Stephen King’s sophomore novel off the shelf and reading it as sort of a Halloween ritual, akin to my leaving out a bowl of Jolly Ranchers Chewables for Cthulhu on the 31st. You’d think I’d get tired of reading the same book six or seven times (I might have missed a year) but it really is a good novel and “The town had always known darkness” chapter is truly one of the best passages in the English language. I ordered this hardcover edition with its disquieting illustrations by Jerry Uelsmann in my final year of high school and it’s been a constant on my shelf ever since.
When my good friend Talbert Johnson accompanied me to the Toronto Comic Arts Festival my second year going, he had us make a brief detour to the Beguiling comic book store in Mirvish Village. This ominous-looking hardcover edition of Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell, quite possibly the single greatest work in the comics medium, caught my eye so effectively that a couple months later I scheduled a day trip to Toronto for the singular purpose of picking up this book. It’s an utterly disturbing story that never holds back, leaving me eternally paranoid that someone might see what I’m reading and think me a serial killer in training, but I enjoy it regardless (well, as much as one can actually “enjoy” something so horrifying).
And that’s it for my Consumerist Appreciation Corner for the month. Join in next time for “Which Supermarket Frozen Pizza is the Best?”*
*A joke, I assure you all.