Are you really a book lover if you don’t have an unhealthy obsession with your favourite books? Is it really your favourite book if you don’t have a dedicated copy to loan out to others? Do you collect all the copies of Jane Eyre in the hope of finding the one copy your dad wrote you a birthday dedication on? (no, wait, that’s from Definitely, Maybe).
Some of us decided to put together our own stories behind owning multiple copies of some books (all perfectly legitimate reasons, thank you very much), which are compiled here to form what may be the most heartfelt book recommendations you could ever find.
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
There was a frayed copy of Rebecca in my mom’s bookshelf when I was growing up. I picked it up at the age of eleven once, but didn’t quite grasp it. In a couple of years, I tried again and fell in love. Then, when I graduated from high school, I received a copy as a felicitation present, and was shocked to discover that my mom’s copy was a slightly abridged version. Since then, I’ve had an irrational obsession with the book, and I *have* to pick up any copy I come across which has a different cover. – Deepali Agarwal
Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
I love me some Austen. I love me some Elizabeth Bennett. And because it’s a classic, there are just so many gorgeous copies out there to be had! Whether I buy them for myself or have been gifted copies from friends, no regrets! – Elizabeth Allen
Matilda by Roald Dahl
As a kid I was always fascinated by picture books and anything with illustrations but it wasn’t until my aunt gave me a copy of Matilda that I fell in love with reading and knew it was something I needed in my life… When my little abuela, always an avid reader, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I supplied her with books to read, including a Spanish copy of Matilda. No surprise that she absolutely loved it. When she passed away I placed her copy beside my childhood copy on my bookshelf, where it will remain for the rest of my life. – Jamie Canaves
Report to the Principal’s Office by Jerry Spinelli
I was obsessed with the under-the-radar School Daze series by Jerry Spinelli in elementary school, and took all four out of the library constantly, but I never owned them. As an adult, I tracked down a box set of reprints of the series – but the covers had changed by then, and of course I needed to track down the covers I’d read too, because spotting them in the library was always such a joyful moment to me. It’s totally overkill, but I love having an extra of this funny, charming, forgotten book about four oddball friends starting middle school, and looking at the covers – both sets – still makes me smile. – Jessica Plummer
Tar Baby by Toni Morrison
Tar Baby is far and away my favorite Toni Morrison book, for mostly sentimental reasons: I read/studied/devoured/lived the book during a college course devoted solely to Morrison, where I met and fell in love with another student as we talked about mixed race issues, island life, the tar baby folktale, our high-yellow skin, ships at a distance… if you’ve never fallen in love over Toni Morrison, I highly recommend the heady experience. Tar Baby was the bond that drew us together, and when my partner passed away several years later, I kept his copy of the book, with notes quotes and doodles, as a remembrance of our relationship. – Alison Peters
Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters
Tipping the Velvet is my favourite book of all time, so of course the book that I have multiple times is that one. Each of the covers is so evocative and different! The classic cover with the shoes is demure–exactly the opposite of the content. Then there’s the ridiculous cover with the two mostly-naked women wearing striped socks, both suspended by a rope. That one does not have anything to do with a scene from the book, but it nails the tone of the story. And my favourite cover, recently acquired: the original hardcover with the beautiful, inescapably yonic oyster illustrations. I can’t pick just one version to keep! – Danika Ellis
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
In high school, we read The Count of Monte Cristo as required reading. As the rest of the class was grumbling at the length of this 1,000+ page beast, I was discovering my favorite book. After being issued a battered, old copy from the school, I decided to buy my own. The cover was alright – nothing special. But then, I discovered the Modern Library Classics edition and knew that was the cover I was meant to have. The graphic depiction of the Count galloping away on a horse with a trail of blood behind him captures the story perfectly. – Sophia Khan
The Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey
I own at least three copies of this. There is the paperback trilogy that has Dragonflight, Dragonquest, and The White Dragon bound in one volume. Then there’s the small hardback edition I got from the Science Fiction Book Club which was the original copy that I read in my childhood, and which I’d go into a burning building to save. Then there are the mass market paperbacks of the entire Pern series, including the original trilogy. I think I’m on my fourth or fifth iteration of those because they keep falling apart. – Kristen McQuinn
The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
Of course I have perfectly reasonable explanations as to why I own seven copies (at least) of The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm. I need one to write notes in (went with the 7th edition translated by Jack Zipes); another that’s easily searchable (kindle edition); and then pretty ones. Many pretty ones. Illustrated by Maurice Sendak? Okay, I’ll buy it. Fancy Barnes and Noble edition? If you insist. Easton Press? Check — two different versions. Folio Press? Maybe that’s excessive…but you got me. First English release of the first edition, with lovely illustrations by Andrea Dezso? Fine. Fine. My bookshelf can take it. (It helps that I work in a used bookstore, where I bought most of these.) – Margaret Kingsbury
No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July
I own two copies of July’s short story collection, one for loaning out and another for when the loaner’s gone and I want to revisit her quirky, desperate, funny, tragic world. If I found another writer like her (Murakami?), I would own multiple copies of their books, too. – Thomas Maluck
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
I own multiple copies of all my favourite classics. I mean, there are so many different gorgeous editions to collect! This particular book has a special place in my heart. I love Jane to the moon and back. I got my first copy when I was studying it for university—it’s a well-worn, marked up paperback that I return to if I want to give it another read. I also have a couple of beautiful hardcovers. My Penguin Classics clothbound edition is for eyes only! I don’t want to get the cloth dirty 🙂 – Beth O’Brien
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
I’ll readily admit Nabokov has some seriously problematic aspects—he had seriously regressive ideas when it came to mental illness and homosexuality, for instance—but he also wrote some of the most beautiful, intricate prose of the twentieth century. I own multiple copies of several of his books, but probably have the most copies of Lolita. Among them: an old Vintage edition that matches my other Nabokov paperbacks, The Annotated Lolita, and—the pride and joy of my collection—a two volume copy from original publisher Olympia Press. My original copy—a clothbound Everyman’s Library edition—was sold off some years again when I decided four copies of one book was just too many. – Charles Paul Hoffman
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
I did not read this book until I was 30 years old, and only then learned what I’d been missing my first 30 years of life. García Márquez’ epic saga of the Buendia family is a classic tale of love, war, heartbreak, and death — all with the masterful use of magical realism that remains unparalleled by any other author. I reread this book every year on my birthday as a gift to myself, and each time I gain something new. I keep one copy in my bedroom, and one in my car, just in case I get stuck somewhere and want something to read. This has never happened, of course, and my car has plenty of books, but this story is my security blanket. It is a challenge to read at first (you will rely heavily on the family tree at the front of the book) but so worth it.
I own the audiobook of both of these, as well as two paperbacks of each. I first discovered these books on audio, and Robin Miles’ amazing narration had me hooked from the start. I decided I needed to read them in print as well, to make sure it was the story and not just Miles’ narration, and reading the books rather than listening is a very different but equally rewarding experience. Then I had to get another copy of each as loaner copies to share with others, because I am obsessed with this story and believe everyone else should be, too. The third book, The Stone Sky, comes out this summer.
– Maureen Stinger
Tell us your stories of owning multiple copies of the same book in the comments!