We all need methods in our lives to separate the worthwhile from the time-wasting, the valuable wheat from the useless chaff.

I’m not suggesting that all other books are chaff-like (I will admit Twilight was a delicious read), but the award winners below are safe bets in an age where 200,000 books are published each year in the United States alone. For reading and collecting.

Mann Booker Prize, open to novels by citizens of the Commonwealth of  Nations, Ireland, and Zimbabwe

National Book Award, open to American authors

Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, open to American authors

Sad to say, I haven’t read any of them. I have my eye on The Children’s Book (Byatt is always great) and The Little Stranger (a mystery in postwar Britain seems right up my alley). Let me know what you think of these, or any of the books on the list.

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I discovered a great comment that had been marked by wordpress as “spam,” and I fortunately rescued it from oblivion.

Vanessa from the Odyssey Bookshop commented about a fantastic scheme: Odyssey’s Signed First Edition Club. Each month, they send out a first edition that’s been hand-picked by the staff as a club selection, and signed by the author. Check it out:

The Odyssey has become the premier bookstore in Western Massachusetts for author appearances and signings. Odyssey staff read advance copies of books months before their publication, and are keyed in to those books which are likely to make an impact in the publishing world. We also know the books from small publishing houses, and those which will have ‘short press runs.’ This is important, since a book with a first edition printing of 5,000 copies will, all other things equal, likely have greater value down the road that one with 200,000 copies.

Past selections include The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Pulitzer Prize winer) and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle and Sea of Poppies (both New York Times’ top ten picks of 2008). And the price? Publisher’s list price plus shipping. I can’t imagine a more rewarding treat to look forward to each month — or a better gift for a friend.

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I read once that the dust jacket comprises 80% of a book’s value. It’s a good idea to protect your dust jackets in an archival cover, so that you can read, handle, and display the books without worrying about wear to the jacket.

Brodart is the go-to manufacturer of dust jacket covers for most libraries and rare book dealers. There are lots of different options on the website for covers, and it’s a bit confusing. After researching the different options, I decided to get an assortment package of the Fold-On Archival covers. I figured an assortment pack would be good for me, someone with a small personal library with books of various sizes.

So I purchased the 100-count pack of covers for $33.15, and an 8″ bone folder for $9.45 to make clean folds where size adjustments are necessary. The covers are extremely easy to assemble with the dust jackets and to adjust the size when needed.

A photo of the books I covered today, and my current reads.