I have been slowly replacing the old paperbacks in my library. It’s a necessary task. Some of them have degraded to the point that they might not survive another reading.
The most decrepit of them all is C.S. Lewis’s Prince Caspian. Its back cover and last few pages are completely detached. The seven Narnia books have been in my library for as long as I can remember. They are 1978 paperback editions, so it’s not surprising that some are showing their age.
It’s tough to choose replacement editions. Initially I was opposed to all of the modern editions because of they way the books are numbered. They are always numbered in chronological order, as opposed to the original publication order. However, I have decided that the cover numbers are irrelevant, because I can read them in any order I want.
Looking at my old set, it’s interesting how the condition varies from book to book. While Prince Caspian has reached the end of its days, The Horse and His Boy looks almost unread. If I were to judge by condition only, I’d say my childhood order of preference was…
- Prince Caspian
- The Voyage of the “Dawn Treader”
- The Last Battle
- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
- The Silver Chair
- The Magician’s Nephew
- The Horse and His Boy
This order of preference sounds plausible to me. It’s close to how I’d order them now. The only major change I’d make would be to put The Last Battle last. I might also rearrange the top three from time to time, depending on my mood. My current order of preference is very close to the original publication order, which is my main argument for using the old numbering. Why start with one of the poorer entries of the series? Not that The Magician’s Nephew (first in chronological order) is horrible, but it’s not even close to the best. Kids who start with that one might not bother to continue with the series.
Well, the numbering is something over which I have no control, so there’s no sense in getting fired up about it. The important thing is to find editions that are attractive and comfortable to read. One problem with shopping for books online is that you can’t always tell exactly which edition you’re getting. And it’s impossible to judge the artwork or the font or the heft of the book without actually picking it up and looking at it. So I will be planning trips to the library and a bricks-and-mortar bookstore to do more research. And while I’m sad to have to replace my childhood books, I’m thrilled to have an excuse to go book hunting!