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Expert advice on book collecting

By David Chang

May. 5, 2004 9:00 pm

In the high-stakes world of competitive book collecting,
everyone is a wild card and anyone can be a dark horse. Now that
sounds like my kind of competition. Plus, it’s low on
physicality and high on spending money. Thus, I have enlisted the
help of fourth-year English student and book collector
extraordinaire Carrie Wiita to help me start my collection.

Long story short, Carrie’s entry, “If Wishes Were
Horses: Children’s Horse Books and Anthologies from the 20th
Century,” won second place in the 56th Annual Robert B. and
Blanche Campbell Student Book Collection Competition. Wiita’s
collection beat out worthy opponents such as “Dog Stories of
Albert P. Terhune,” “Human as an Integrated Whole: The
Body-Mind-Spirit Development” and “Terrorism and War:
the Israeli Response.” (Phew.)

Maybe the secret to winning a book collection contest is a very
long and intimidating title. The time it takes to read one of these
never-ending titles makes the judges forget the other entries.

“I collect horse books, but it wasn’t like “˜I
collect children’s horse books and anthologies from the 20th
century’ (egotistical tone),” Carrie said, “until
I saw this competition.”

How about “B is for Blood-Gushing Good Time: A Collection
of Sword Books?” Not long enough. Maybe “Vice City:
Books About Crime, South Florida Fashion in the ’80s, and
Crockett and Tubbs.” That’s better.

Carrie has just over 200 books about horses. I don’t own
200 anything.

“I made my dad go into the garage and find all my horse
books,” the Oregon native said. “I had to count them,
and I realized “˜Sh- -, I have a lot of horse

According to Carrie, the best way to increase my book collection
exponentially is to force my friends and relatives to give only
books about Miami as presents from now on. That memo will be going
out real soon.

Carrie, however, informs me that quantity has little to do with
winning a book collecting competition, because the contest usually
limits the amount of books that can be submitted to create a level
playing field. Cohesiveness, says Carrie, is the true determining

Wait a minute, I can’t just buy my way to victory? This
might be a problem. How do I make my collection cohesive then?

“It’s basically like writing a comparative
literature paper, but you don’t have to actually write the
paper. You just have the books and kind of have a thesis and
that’s it,” she said. “It’s great ““
the easiest paper you’ll ever write is just having a book

Carrie’s collection finished behind “Amusement Park
Taxonomy” last week. Still, Carrie was gracious.

“I don’t think I went into this (trying to) sabotage
other collections,” Carrie explained. “It’s not

Carrie isn’t just obsessed with horse books; she’s
obsessed with horses. That’s perfect. I’m not just
obsessed with books about drugs and prostitution; I’m
obsessed with drugs and prostitution, period.

“When you’re a kid and you want a horse and you
can’t have one, you read these stories about kids who want
horses and can’t have them. Eventually the kid in the story
gets one, and it’s always this absolutely beautiful
horse,” Carrie gushed.

Carrie finally got a horse when she was 9. “My horse never
quite looked like the horses in the illustrations,” she

But dreams do come true. Perhaps someday I will be cruising in a
speedboat through South Beach with Don Johnson’s wrinkly skin
flapping in the wind.

E-mail Chang at [email protected]

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