In praise of multiple copies


When Debbie visited the new writing studio a couple of weeks ago, she was surprised by what she found on the shelves.

“Why do you have so many copies of the same book?”

She’s an assistant manager at a bookstore, so I forgive her many things, including her confusion over my apparent odd habit of stocking the same book over and over again in my personal library.

Here’s the thing: If you could clone your closest friends and freely share them with others, wouldn’t you? Or if not share (as in loan), then at least make the introduction?

Last night I taught my first ‘learn the basics in a 3-hour crash course on writing’ workshop in my new space, and those multiple copies came in handy. Together we read aloud from Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life and Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle. And yes…I had enough copies to go round.

While I know many people like photocopies and handouts, it felt so much better to be reading from the actual books. Silly thing, isn’t it? That’s the sort of silly thing that matters to me. I don’t want to talk to a photo of my friend propped up in a chair; I want her sitting across from me as we chat. Why settle for a facsimile when the real thing can be had?

So that’s why I have multiple copies, purchased from thrift stores, Goodwill, garage sales, used bookstores, and library sales. Because you can’t have enough of a good thing, especially when it’s reading material. But if you’re into borrowing, sorry–that’s what the public library is for. I’ve lost too many good friends to trust anyone with those I love best.

And if you’re purging your library of ‘friends,’ get in touch with me. I’m often selective, but once a book becomes a friend, it’s a friend for life.

Photo courtesy Aleksi Tappura /


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