As I sit here this morning, pondering which incomplete project I should make little progress on, the thought occurred to me that I should straighten up the book room. It is the "book room", as "library" is much too elegant a term for it, and it is a mess.
Books everywhere, on the shelves, stacked on the table, the floor, the computer desk. etc. And all sorts of "gamer" clutter; a stack of un-played board games, old maps, historical photos, post cards, even a few old cigarette cards, and other bits of paper that captured my interest for one reason or another. There are other things too. A rack of Mustangs and Messerschmitts airplane models that haven't seen a game in 15 years, a M1 helmet, a Martini-Henry bayonet, a Soviet Panama hat, an assortment of other bits of militaria, Sir Stuart the Silver Knight, a couple of antique coins from Ceylon, and all sorts of important gamer junk. But mostly, there are books.
As I look around me, I realize that I still have upwards of 1500 books in this room. A few hundred of their companions have migrated throughout the house. There are other books throughout the house also, but they are not like these books, for these are my hobby books. There were many more, but since 2006, I've managed to reduce their number by at least half.
Many are what one might expect of a miniatures or historical gamer, traditional histories, specialized painting guides and cyclopedias of equipment. Some are recent publications, others nearly contemporary with the exploits of Napoleon. But many are seemingly unrelated to the hobby; "The Pioneers: The Early British Tea & Coffee Planters..." a history of the tea and coffee trade in India, or "Cycads of the World" by Jones, or "The Secret Collection of Mankind", a collection of photos of native peoples of earth captioned with an amazing cultural bias, dating from probably the 1890s to the 1920s.
Many of the books were bought as references or inspiration for projects seemingly unrelated to the subject of the text. Guadalupi's "The Discovery of the Nile" was purchased as inspiration for fantasy terrain, "The Lost Cities of the Mayas" translated to a ruined & unexplored science-fiction world. The Cycad book helped with the jungles of Vietnam, south pacific islands and various alien worlds.
Possibly the most important single miniatures gaming book that I ever purchased was "The People from the Horizon" by Snow & Waine, a history of the relationship between Europeans and South Sea Islanders. When crossed with the idea initially presented by the movie "Nate & Hayes" and Frank Clune's "Captain Bully Hayes" (which addresses far more than just the exploits of Bully Hayes) provided a huge portion of the background for my Ponape games, 28mm Victorian era piracy and adventure in the South Pacific.
The traditional hobby related texts are indispensable, even with the rise of the internet, the level of detail about armies, battlefields, equipment, and tactics can't be equaled. But in my case, I find that many of these non-traditional hobby sources are equally important. These "non-hobby" books make up roughly a third (easily 600) of my current hobby book collection. Most of these books come at very little cost, and most are readily available. A few are harder to get, but none are particularly rare.
Though not my first history or military book, the first of my hobby book collection, Fighting Vehicles, by Ellis & Chamberlain, received in late fall of the 1973 still sets on my shelves (yes, I have always been, and shall always be a treadhead). As I scan the shelves, I see many titles that are now outdated, redundant, or rendered unnecessary by the internet.
As I view this imposing hoard, probably the most surprising consideration is that I have one book for every six miniatures that I own. I would expect that ratio to be more like 50 to 1 or maybe even 25 to 1.
Oh well, better quit wasting time and get to work. Besides, I need to make room on the shelves, may wife wants to stop by Half Price Books later today...