I even started to sell books, which once would have seemed inconceivable. Not that this slowed my rate of acquisition: I still buy books faster than I can read them. But again, this feels completely normal: how weird it would be to have around you only as many books as you have time to read in the rest of your life.
Julian Barnes (Source)
In an excellent essay in The Guardian published on June 29th this year, Julian Barnes wrote about his life as a bibliophile. While the essay in it’s entirety is a fascinating account of Julian Barnes’ life in books, how he used to frequent second hand book stores and as a completist, bought a lot of books, not all being very wise deals, one detail stuck out to me.
How even though he has started selling some of the books he bought, he hasn’t stopped buying books – and he still buys more books than he reads. Because – and here’s where lightning hit – ‘how weird it would be to have around you only as many books as you have time to read in the rest of your life.’ Wow!
I have for several years been feeling guilty about buying more books than I read. So bad, that this year I’ve even added it as one of my reading goals – I have to read more books than I buy. But why? It’s funny, I don’t think I’ve ever asked myself this question. Really asked myself why I have to read more books than I buy. Yes, I buy books because I would like to read them – but I also enjoy just owning them. I love looking at my giant book case and seeing all my pretty books, nicely lined up. I love having a great selection to choose from when I’ve finished a book and am ready for another one.
Julian Barnes’ essay sort of gave me the okay to feel this way. He even said it would be weird only to have as many books as you could read. I am a bit of a collector/hoarder at heart – as is my entire family. So having someone say that it’s okay to just buy books and not worry if you will ever read them, means a lot to me. Even though it is a bit weird that I have to get someone’s permission for it.
What does this mean now? Will I go crazy buying books? Probably not more than I do now. Will I ignore my goal to read more than I buy this year? Definitely not. Will I have the same goal for next year? I don’t know … but I’m so glad to have someone given me the go-ahead for book buying.
But go read the entire essay by Julian Barnes – it’s a really great piece.
I too like just owning books, looking at them all lined up on the shelf. If I were rich and had a large room to make a library, I would totally be a collector. But I’m not and I hate having books that don’t have a home because I have too many, it looks so messy. I used to have a large collection but I’ve trimmed it back and now only have books I will read.
Oh, I too only have books I will read. I just need to live long enough ;-P
We book addicts are a funny bunch. And don’t let a Kindle or Nook, etc. fool you; that’s like going from cocaine to crack. At least with book buying addictions, the idea of “no more room” creeps in once in awhile. With digital, space is not a problem. Worse, we don’t even have to reach for the wallet. Not good.
See, if you think of it this way, book buying is saving you money!
Always happy to help my fellow book junkies.
Oh my. You’re right. The e book readers are even worse. So far, I can pretty much stop the urges by getting samples – but I do admit to sometimes just buying a book because it sounds good and it only takes a sec to get it… It’s so nice when you can shop without getting your wallet out. So convenient… So dangerous …
I will definitely use your argument in the future to justify more real book buying! Thank you! 🙂
My pleasure. I look forward to your future blogs