I have too many books. Is that possible?
Let me rephrase that. I have too many books that I haven’t found time to read yet. They haven’t even made it onto my shelves. They sit in piles waiting for me to dig them out and open them up.
The problem is that it takes far less time to buy a book than to read it. Books are very seductive that way. They offer so many promises, tempting you to look inside. Sometimes it’s the eye-catching cover. Other times it’s the plot synopsis on the back. It could also be a recommendation from a friend who has good taste. So you might find a copy of the book and read the first few pages, and then if it’s a good book, you might realize that you need to read the rest of it. Unfortunately it’s impossible to read it in less than five to eight hours, which means the book is going to be coming home with you.
Some people are probably smart about their relationship with books. Maybe they only commit to one at a time. Maybe they only add books to their shelves when there are no more on the shelf which they haven’t read. I’m not that smart. I’ve never been a monogamous book lover. I have bookmarks holding places in multiple books at a time. I add books to my collection before I’ve finished reading even half of what I added previously. I love them as objects; their weight and shape in my hands, the texture of the paper, the different styles and colors of their covers. I love finding those paperbacks with the super floppy pages that lay flat without breaking the spine when they’re opened.
If the outside of a book isn’t tempting enough, then the content inside adds its own attraction. Unless you’ve read it before, there’s something mysterious about the inside of a book. You don’t yet know what it contains. All you can do is anticipate. The pleasure the inside of a book gives is not immediate, but takes time to build. You have to read it page by page.
The promise and the anticipation is what keeps my bookshelves overflowing. I can’t help but want them all and I can’t possibly find the time to read all of those I want. I deliberately walk into dangerous places, like library book sales and thrift shops, knowing I won’t come out empty handed. I may have too many books, but I don’t have any regrets.
As someone who is nursing sore muscles after having moved his entire book collection recently, I just want to say….I probably need more books. There is a glorious sensation in holding a good book — the smell, the feel of the pages. I agree — each book is a new discovery, a new world awaiting exploration. At least I have the excuse that many (most?) of my books also count as reference material, so it makes sense to keep them on the shelves even if I’ve read them.
Sadly, I’ve hit the point where too many of my (too many) books are parked in boxes in the attic so they don’t get in the way of the rest of life. Fortunately, I’ve read quite a few of them.