Over the years, how I think of books and how I relate to them has changed dramatically. Sometimes I just didn’t know enough about life and the world. Sometimes I just took for granted the attitudes towards books and reading that the people around me taught. Here are few ways my relationship with books has changed.
I no longer want to own a library.
When I was growing up, I imagined that one day I would live in a house with at least one entire room entirely dedicated to books. Probably more bookshelves would line the other rooms, as well. Now, years later, I have realized that having enough money, stability, and floor space for a personal library just isn’t that easy. I rarely buy books now, preferring to use the public library. And, when I do buy a book, I usually donate it to the library or a classroom later, because I have nowhere to store it. My book collection is a small, curated selection of books that I truly love, and can see myself rereading.
I’m not a book snob anymore (mostly).
I read mostly classics growing up, I was eager to be reading “above grade level,” and I was embarrassed if a teacher or acquaintance caught my teenage self browsing the children’s section at the bookstore or the library.
I think this is partly because educators often put so much emphasis on the need to read, and read well. We were regularly tested by standardized tests in school to determine our reading level. Then we were a number that rated our ability, and given a list of books we were “allowed” to read. I still remember with great anger being told by a school librarian that I wasn’t allowed to check out some chapter books I wanted–she told me I was only allowed to check out the beginner readers. That is, until I brought in my test scores to her, thereby “proving” I should be able to check out more challenging books. At any rate, I learned that my intellect and thereby my worth were tied to how well I could read and how many hard books I could read. Then I grew up and realized that none of that really matters.
I realized comic books and audiobooks are real books.
My teachers in grade school and high school told my classes that reading comic books and audiobooks did not count as reading. I grew up believing that only people who could not read well could or should read comic books or audiobooks. I still meet children who harbor these same thoughts, and, while I sympathize with their young book snobbery, I also wonder where they are getting it from. Because they’re missing out on some great books!
I prefer to own nicer books.
I used to accept any book in any condition. I would go to yard sales and buy paperbacks that were falling apart, just so I could read a new book. I figured it was what was inside–the words–that really mattered. Nowadays, I don’t buy collector’s editions or expensive books, but I do only purchase books that are in good condition.
I am able to let books go.
It is easy for me to be possessive of my books (in part because I treat them so well, and others tend not to). And it’s easy to act like books are sacred and must never be recycled or thrown away. I have realized, however, that books are just material objects like anything else. Sometimes accidents happen and a book’s lifespan is over. Sometimes there is simply not enough space for me to keep all my books. I have reached a point in life where I can donate books to people who will use them more, or where I can accept that yes, this one is ruined. It’s actually a lot less stressful to go through life realizing that books don’t have to be cherished as sacred artefacts.
How have your attitudes towards books changed?
Also check out: 10 Ways My Reading Habits Have Changed Over the Years