Two months ago, I decided to re-read the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling. I borrowed the entire series the first time I read it, (one long weekend in august I read the first 4 books, then I waited until my friends owned the next three) so none of the copies were my own. An impulsive book shopper, I ordered the paperback box set from Amazon, (sorry to all the indie stores out there cringing); it was less expensive than buying the books separately, in paperback or hard cover. I couldn’t wait to get the books and start reading.
However, something stalled me. For a month, every time I opened the box, I looked at the books neatly aligned and sighed. I stroked my fingers lovingly down their spines, picked up the Philosopher’s Stone, and held it. Then I gently put it back in the box, sighed, closed the lid and walked away, wishing for something to read.
I genuinely want to re-read the series. JK Rowling masterfully weaves elements from the Philosopher’s Stone right through to the Deathly Hallows, and I dreamed about the characters the way I did with the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. I want to learn from JK Rowling as a writer this time, instead of just as a reader.
But I just can’t get over the ‘Box Set’ mentality.
This, unfortunately, is not a new phenomenon for me. I read the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) in my early twenties. I had a single volume edition that I carted back and forth to work with me on the bus. (At 1200 pages, an e-reader would have been so much lighter.) I sold this edition when my parents, knowing I loved the trilogy, bought me a paperback box set that included the Hobbit with each LOTR book bound separately. It is a very thoughtful gift, and for nearly six years I have picked up the Hobbit lovingly, determined to read it, only to set it back down in the box, on the shelf.
The ‘Box Set’ mentality was instilled in me as a child, when, in an effort to bond with my father, I collected Fleer baseball trading cards. My brother collected hockey cards, and the Toronto Blue Jays had just won their first World Series, so I picked baseball cards. I purchased many packs of baseball cards, excited to open each to see what I received. One day, I found a Phil Plantier Rookie Sensation card, the first series that used gold leaf on a trading card. In 1992, Phil was worth $40, second only in value to the $80 Frank Thomas. With my father and his friend’s help, I collected the entire 20 card 1992 Rookie Sensations set. All, I might add, in mint condition. Of course the cards are now worth $0.65 and $5.00 respectively, but my collector’s fire was fueled with stories of people finding Mickey Mantle rookie cards in mint condition. In trading cards, the value remains in their lack of use.
For a while, I’ve wondered why I stopped collecting trading cards, aside from their obvious current low in popularity. I think I can trace it back to the day I received my 1992 ‘wax-box’ of Fleer baseball cards. My choice at the time was obvious. A wax-box would gain in value because the cards inside remained unopened, so they stayed in mint condition. Inside there were at least 20 packs of cards to be opened, giving the satisfaction of opening each pack, and seeing what you collected and what you could trade. I never opened the wax-box because it was supposed to gain in value, and if the cards didn’t amount to much, I would be disappointed upon opening.
On the other hand, as a young girl I had a large collection of Barbies, including many of the specialty Christmas editions. While some (older) people thought I should leave the dolls in their beautiful dresses in the boxes they came in, I ignored them. I tore into the boxes, pulled out the dolls, and began creating worlds where my Barbies had clothes that related to the stories I imagined. The dolls fueled my creativity, both in story-telling, and in some ways, architecturally. Even though their value increased by remaining unopened, they held much more value in cultivating my imagination.
Fast-forward twenty years, and I retain the ‘Box Set’ mentality with books despite my yearning to expand my imagination. I have easily broken in new books; I have purchased and read each of Gail Carriger’s books as they were published and I am doing the same with Kathy Reichs’ series. And I have clearly read both the Harry Potter and the LOTR series, but now those are a collection, and I can’t break the ‘Box-Set’ mentality. The truth is, even though I didn’t pay much for the Harry Potter series, my edition (very stylized, and boxed to look like Hedgwig dropped it off) will never be worth much in the future, beyond its priceless ability to expand my imagination, even if I keep it in mint condition. It’s not a first edition. And the book lover in me cringes every time I set the Philosopher’s Stone back down.
Books should be read, not simply collected!!!
So, finally, this past weekend, I opened up the Philosopher’s stone, put a fresh crease in the paperback binding, and set on my return journey to Hogwarts. I cringed, sighed, and then read on, expanding my imagination.
So, is there anything in your home that may hold more worth unused?
Or is there something still in packaging that could expand your world practically or imaginatively? I’d love to hear from you, so leave a comment below, or find me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Plus, sign up for free e-mail updates from this blog in the top right-hand corner of the page.