Multiple-Copies Syndrome

As a former bookseller, I still share new books with my world of writers, educators, editors, artists and fellow readers--via conversations, texts, tweets and often with a crisp copy, either hand-delivered or sent by mail.

This habit of buying multiple copies of favorite new books began on a summer day after I found the paperback edition of In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri (Vintage, $17) at the wonderful indie This Is a Bookstore (the store also has a children's arm, BookBug, and a fun café called Table of Contents) in Kalamazoo, Mich.

I was drawn to In Other Words because it's written in a fascinating way--with the text in Italian on the left page, and in English on the right. I don't know Italian, but as a traveler, I found Lahiri's memoir and her observations on the craft of writing and learning another language fascinating. I've read the book several times. Over the next year, I handed or sent a copy to more than a dozen people: a yoga teacher whose second language is English; a friend who speaks Italian; a fifth-grade teacher headed to Italy for a family reunion; a children's book author who was flying to Rome to launch one of her titles; a few of my editors; my closest writer friends. Each time I held a new copy of In Other Words in my hands and then passed it along, sharing words I loved and was inspired by, I was filled with happiness.

In 2020, the book I bought multiple copies of--singly, then in twos or threes--was I Will Judge You by Your Bookshelf (Abrams, $16.99) by Grant Snider, a book given to me by my husband, Pete, after he saw a review in a corporate newsletter. With bright illustrations full of hilarity and truth about book love, this is a totally different book from In Other Words. Off at various times went the gift of a copy to an illustrator, two editors, a former bookseller, two school librarians, five educators, a grandchild, my circle of writers and three other good friends. I'm still suffering from multiple copies-addiction with this title.

The newest book that I've been sharing in 2022 is Things to Look Forward To (Chronicle, $22.95) by two-time Caldecott Medalist and author Sophie Blackall. I first saw this beautiful and inspiring book at the Chronicle Books booth at the American Library Association convention in Washington, D.C., this past June. My Chronicle editor, Melissa Manlove, offered to give me a copy from the booth. Since then, I've wrapped this book with a white ribbon and handed or mailed it to friends. The cover of Blackall's book is so gleaming and so tactile that it needs no wrapping paper. Two summer neighbors. One of my sisters. A college roommate. Several avid reader friends. My sister-in-law. The rector at my church (who then shared Sophie's book in a newsletter of reflections). A high school friend (a week later she told me she bought five more as gifts!). My two daughters. A 94-year-old reader and pianist.

This is how a book is often found: in a lovely bookstore on a summer day of travels, because of mention in a review, at a publisher's exhibit of new books... OR, in the case of my multiple-copies syndrome, if a former bookseller loved it enough to give you one. Because the love of a book is free.

The sharing of loved books--that's what booksellers, past and present, do. Now instead of selling them across a store counter, I give them as gifts. And then those books are carried by my own constellation of friends who will spread their light into other constellations.

If only Jhumpa Lahiri, Grant Snider and Sophie Blackall knew about my multiple copies addiction! I thank them--and all artists working at their desks--for creating works that are now part of me and part of the lives of my friends and the world of readers beyond.

The magic and the love of books. May you find such brilliant pages in your own life, buy multiple copies and give them away with joy. --Louise Borden

Louise Borden is a former bookseller and the author of 30 books for children, among them The Little Ships: The Heroic Rescue at Dunkirk in World War II (Margaret K. McElderry), illustrated by Michael Foreman, and The Journey that Saved Curious George (Clarion), illustrated by Allan Drummond. Her most recent book is a biography of David Glasgow Farragut, Full Speed Ahead!: America's First Admiral (Calkins Creek).

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