I adore books. I adore being an Owner of Books. I love going into bookshops, touching books, looking at cover art and cover blurbs. I love the smell of books. Not sure I would wear it as a perfume though, but still. There is a quality I love about being surrounded by books. I am lucky enough to live in a house which has spare rooms. One of those spare rooms is known as The Book Room as this is where my bookcases live. The bookcases do house a few other things: some DVDs, some prints/art/knickknacks, M’s books; but primarily they are Home to MY Library.
I do also own a Kindle. It makes life easy for travelling. It also makes it easy to read stuff that might otherwise be embarrassing. It can be propped up easily to read while knitting/crocheting. I use my Kindle a lot.
The Kindle definitely has some disadvantages. It doesn’t have all the books in the world available on it. It doesn’t function well as insulation either. It isn’t particularly pretty and nor does it smell like books. It doesn’t have much of a soul.
The Kindle definitely won’t replace my books.
What Kindle-ownership should have done though was to make me a bit more discriminatory about the books I did keep on my shelves. I thought this would be what it would do. I certainly started out with that intention. What Kindle-ownership seems to have meant so far is that I buy crappy e-books on it, as well as books I Must Read Now and then impulse-buy ‘actual, real books’ on the infrequent times I go into bookshops. I really don’t go into bookshops that often, but when I do I end up buying three or four books at a time. It’s always quicker to buy than it is to read.
A friend recently posted that she was having a Massive Clearout (TM) and that this has included getting rid of a large quantity of books, including many kept for sentimental value or for reasons of trying to preserve and present a version of her identity. Having a lot of books for her was intrinsically linked to the way she felt about herself and the way she felt she appeared to others. Having a ‘library’ made her feel (or feel that she appeared) intelligent and clever, as well as well-read. It didn’t matter that her friends knew that she was intelligent, clever and well-read without those physical signifiers, it was the ownership of the books which mattered.
I related to this so much.
Part of the reason I have the number of books I do is because I have kept books from university, books which I liked the sound of but never got into when reading, books where I liked the subject matter but which felt unwieldy or difficult to read. There is a biography of Charlie Chaplin which I’ve started to read once, approximately 20 years ago when I borrowed it from the library. I like old-film biographies and autobiographies a lot but this one is a pretty hefty tome. I always believed that, having started it (and progressed a fair way through it), I would finish it one day. That day has yet to come.
I realised, when mulling over the content of my friend’s post, that I’m not even sure I *want* to read that book any more. I wonder how many more books there are on my shelves which I feel that way about?
Every year I seem to try to resurrect my “Reading from Home” project, and for a short period of time it works. I discover books in my collection which I’ve not read for ages. I find others which I’ve read and forgotten. I find unread gems which become firm favourites. And then I get distracted by the new and shiny things which are suggested to me by Amazon or GoodReads and the whole cycle starts again. I have, for example, just added another book to my “Want to Read” list on GoodReads…
The plan of action then is to not-quite Marie Kondo my library but instead try to be more honest with myself. Why am I keeping this? Am I still interested in the content? Am I interested enough to read it now? If not now, then when?
If the answer isn’t “in the next year”, then I really need to consider whether I actually intend to read it at all, or whether it’s being kept to make me feel intelligent/scholarly. Or for some other reason. Reading has been part of my identity for so long, that isn’t going to change by having a few fewer books. There will always be the ones I keep and keep returning to.
In other news…
Although still on the subject of reading, I have been looking at my GoodReads reading challenge numbers for this year. I’m not there yet and I’m not sure I will make it to my planned 60 books (48 so far) although I can get a couple of quick wins with some graphic novels if I get cracking.
I was surprised however to see that I have logged 589 books as “read” on GoodReads. I can’t find my stats on when I joined GoodReads but I know I’ve definitely not logged everything I’ve read on there, because I’ve not logged everything I’ve read full stop. Nearly 600 books feels like quite a lot though, given that I’m probably only looking at the last 10 to fifteen years.
I do now feel like I’ve got to tick off the last eleven to get to 600 soon. That will take me to 59 for the year too. Does this sound like a plan?