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The Odd Thing About People Who Own Lots of Books

...is that they always want more. In spite of not having read most of the books that we already have.

I need to study this phenomenon, whose truth I can attest to, as I come from a family of booklovers. Whenever I am out shopping with my husband or mother, we chide each other for picking out new books. I get quadruply scolded, as I am chastised for picking out books not only for myself but for my husband, for my son, or my daughter. My mother and husband always remind me of that we lack shelf space for new books. Yet if they see books they love for themselves or for my children, they ignore my admonishments and purchase them anyway.


Of course my love for books is responsible for my facility in coming up with three synonyms for scold in the previous paragraph as well as for my being a writer. But there are libraries. While there are no public lending libraries in my country, we have access to two university libraries, including high school and grade school level books.  Even more significant, we have not plumbed the depths of our joint family libraries. There are still countless books, especially in my mother's home, that we have not read. She has boxes of children's books she is keeping for my children as well.

And still we buy books.

Obviously we do not read merely for entertainment. If we did, any of the books in our current collection would do. Frankly, I have no time to be bored.

As I receive more scoldings for buying books, I reflect more on my reasons for buying them, to be prepared with good, clear justifications. Here are some.

1. "It will help me in my writing." This is often true. Anything with an intriguing concept, an element related to a story I am working on, or beautiful language I feel I can justify this way.

2. "This is a great addition to my collection of ____" Fill in the blank with "pop-up books," "vintage Bradbury," "speculative fiction," "biographies of favorite writers/artists," "picture puzzle books," "unicorn books," etc. If it is a unicorn book I always win as everyone has to acknowledge the rarity of such. The same with beautiful pop-up books at bargain rates.

3. "This is a wonderful author. You must read her too." A bit of stealth here, to make my husband/mother feel that the book is not just for me but for them. Well, I am willing to share. In fact, I love to share my favorite authors and books.

4. "I've been looking for this book for a long, long time." A justification which almost always arouses sympathy.

Of course, this still doesn't explain why we should be looking for books at all. We justify passing by a bookstore by the fact that we need some place to kill time. But we could just as easily kill time while waiting for someone by window-shopping, doing groceries or having a snack.

We have to face facts. This hoarding of books is a form of addiction. But it is different from my mom's hoarding of canned goods or buying pretty clothes that are still too big for my daughter. Oh, well maybe there is some similarity. Hoarding canned goods dispels anxiety about the future, giving my mother the secure feeling that she will never be without food. Which I have to admit happens to me. With a grocery around the corner, I refuse to buy more than we need for a week. Once we got home late without being able to stop anywhere for food. I had to rack my brains to come up with something for dinner. We did have something, potatoes and sausages, I think, but certainly not as convenient as a can that you can just open. Anyway, the point is that the food is on hand whenever she needs them.

We buy the books to extend out world. We may not open them for a long time. But it gives us a sense of pleasure to know that the portal to a new world is there, just waiting for us to open it. Each time we buy a new book, we promise ourselves an opportunity to visti a new world whenever we wish.

Like the clothes that are too big for our daughter, sometimes we are just not ready for the book we have bought. It may be for a stage of life we are preparing for, such as those books on cake decorating that my mom has been buying for years to prepare her for her post-retirement pursuit. It may simply be that beautifully written as it is, the book is too depressing for us in our current mood or too deep and serious to be absorbed when reading with two small children buzzing around. But we feel the world it offers is one that we want to explore. The cost is much less than a plane ticket and will not expire. Unlike the people in our lives, they our books wait for us forever, wait until we get our lives in order and find time in just the right time. When we are ready, our books will be there, waiting. And that is why will always want more of them.




2 Comment count
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Absolutely wonderful and true ~

Saw a recent post on Facebook and shared it.  The post said, "The way to a woman's heart is through a book store."

I told my wife that it reminded me of her.

Excellent post.  Namaste

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Thanks, Michael

Your wife sounds a lot like me.