In the book blogosphere, collecting books seems to be a badge of honor. The more volumes you own and the less floor space you have to put them on, the greater your bookworm cred. “Bookish problems: running out of room for your all your books!” is the cute little way of saying that maybe you have a problem. However, suggesting that owning more stuff somehow gives a person increased credibility as an avowed lover of stories or a critic of literature ignores all the very good reasons an individual might not have for collecting copies of books.
My own reasons for being particular about what I buy and what I keep no doubt mirror the concerns of many. So below I explain exactly why collecting books in your room until you can’t find your bed may not always be ideal.
Let’s face it. Not everyone has the means to buy every latest hardcover upon release. When a person has bills to pay, rent to make, children to care for, etc. books aren’t going to be a top priority. And while it sounds cute and quirky to say “Who needs food? I buy books!” this isn’t how life works and it dismisses the concerns many people have about finding ways to enjoy their favorite pastimes when they really are trying to find a way to put dinner on the table that week.
I personally buy very few books because I simply can’t afford it–and I don’t mean that in a “I can’t afford it because I spent my money on video games or a new dress this week” way. Instead I show support for authors by checking their books out of the library (encouraging libraries to buy more of this author’s work and in turn inspiring other patrons to buy a book they borrowed and enjoyed) and by promoting their work through the blog.
Owning enough books to start up your own library sounds like a great idea–until you have to move. If you’re moving out of your parents’ house, you’ll have to bring a second truck just to transport them, or maybe pay hundreds of dollars to have them shipped (and hope the post office actually delivers them all). Then you have to lug them all up the stairs only to find that your tiny new apartment actually needs to have stuff like furniture in it and you no longer have space for your hundreds of books.
Like many young people in America, you will probably change apartments frequently as you seek out lower rent or a better job and then you will have to repeat the hassle of lugging books around every few years. Your friends will soon get tired of helping you move and will find ways to be “busy” that weekend, so then you’ll be stuck lugging your hundreds of books up the stairs alone.
It’s simply easier to cull books from your shelves before you have to move and you find yourself weeping over having to part with dozens of them at once because you can’t transport them and you don’t have the space to store them.
The Desire to Pass It On
When you own hundreds of books, it becomes increasingly unlikely that you’re going to reread them all at some point. I take a hard look at my books and assess how likely I am ever to pick each one up again. If I only liked a story a little bit, I remove it from my collection and donate it to the library or to an organization that provide books to children who don’t have any. I see no reason for me to hoard dozens of books I won’t read when others don’t have access to books at all. Besides, if I ever do want to read the book again, there’s always the library.