Friday, February 24, 2012

Just Too Many Books.

I love books.  Books were why I became a librarian.  My whole family loves books and buys them,  We have book shelves in every room that are filled with books.  We now all have Kindle e readers.  We now not only buy physical books, we buy electronic books.  I have over 300 e books on my Kindle.  I keep track of when publishers reduce  e book prices or sell the book for free and if it a title with a good review and a good price... I purchase it.    But despite the fact that I probably have too many books, despite the fact that I am running out of room, I’m not sold on the notion of purging my library. The reason is this: most of the library consists of books I haven’t read . In “Unpacking My Library,” Walter Benjamin shares this anecdote:
And the non-reading of books, you will object, should be characteristic of all collectors? This is news to me, you may say. It is not news at all. experts will bear me out when I say that it is the oldest thing in the world. Suffice it to quote the answer which Anatole France gave to a philistine who admired his library and then finished with the standard question, “And you have read all these books, Monsieur France?” “Not one-tenth of them. I don’t suppose you use your Sevres china every day?”
There are just too many books to read. And while one might make the very good point that you could just wait to buy them when you have more room, there’s something about putting them in a row with other books, read and unread, that creates the cumulative impression of your reading self. Because, when it comes to reading, there will always be more book that you haven’t read than books that you have, and your reading ambition will always be more important than your reading accomplishments.

A library of mostly unread books is far more inspiring than a library of books already read. There’s nothing more exciting than finishing a book, and walking over to your shelves to figure out what you’re going to read next.

What stops me from reading all those books I have purchased?  I also check out e books from the library  or a new physical book...and of course I need to read them first.  Right?

So, the solution here is to just slow down on the buying, not cut it out entirely, which means things like limiting myself to one book per bookstore visit. As I start to chip away at the huge list of Books I Want To Read, I’m sure that list will deepen and broaden in ways I can’t predict, so eventually the library may be more balanced and not so skewed toward books I haven’t read, but it will never be fixed row of read books.


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