In my house I have an overwhelming pile of books I have bought and not read. Yet.
In the past (and possibly to this day) I have had shopping addictions for makeup, clothes, cheap jewelry and shoes. I buy plants like crazy, even though my garden beds don’t have all that much space left in them. When my husband and I built our own house, I felt ok in buying as many books as I wanted. I wouldn’t have to move them in forever. We weren’t saving for anything, and I was just about to finish my psychology honors, which would leave me with loads of time to read. Plus, when my parents divorced when I was a teenager, I had to give away a lot of my books. Like, most of them. I have a very, very small collection of books from my youth, and that really kills me. It’s one of those things that matter the world to me. So when I realized that I wouldn’t have to pack the books back into boxes and lug them to a new house, or even try to justify having to move them and not get rid of them as unnecessary clutter, it began. The book-buying obsession began slowly, very slowly.
Of all the things I buy, I think books are the best, most justifiable. You always get something from a book, which cannot be taken away from you. Entertainment, enlightenment and comfort. Education. They can be donated if they really are terrible, they create conversations or enable to you lend them to others. You can say ‘I read this really great book, you will like it’ and point to it on your bookshelf’. You can go back and read and re-read. I guess there is a snobbish part of me too, in there somewhere; people with too many shoes, or too many collectible items, what are they? Just useless rubbish. My books show I am educated, smart, interesting.
There are not many bookshops near where I live. I have to travel at least an hour and a half to find a proper bookshop, but more often than not I head to Sydney. Second hand bookshops are my jam, I LOVE browsing them, and I feel safe and happy surrounded by books. The need to take at least a few home with me is unbearable, plus, I like to support bookshops with my custom, as opposed to online bookshops only, which is pretty much my only other option.
And this problem, the problem of loving the space in a bookshop, the air I breath in the bookshop, is increased by the promise of a new book! Oh, GOD, the promise of a new book. And by new, I mean one I haven’t read. One to add to my collection. One whose cover has drawn me in, title has intrigued me, and the blurb has whet my appetite. I love to gaze at the cover of a new book and imagine what it is trying to tell me about what is written on the pages within. I love to imagine reading it, reacting to it, feeling all the feelings because of it. There is nothing like getting lost in a really great book, and though I have probably been disappointed as many times as I have felt completely in love with a book, the pure joy of not being able to put a book down is so total, so overwhelming, like a drug high needing to be chased… I will hand over my cash and clutch the book to my chest to take home. But, let’s be honest. I rarely leave a bookshop with only one book. I find it so satisfying to walk out with a neat bag full of three or four stacked upon one another.
To be able to re-create that feeling of joy and opportunity in my own house, by having shelves and shelves of unread books is a luxury I had never imagined, but I never want to relinquish now that I have it. I love perusing the shelves, wondering which one takes my fancy, and being surprised. However, of late, I have felt that I have a few too many to read. I have roughly 55 unread books on my shelves. Yes. 55. That’s not including the full set of Agatha Christie novels my husband bought me a couple of years ago, all collected together on the bottom shelf. If I add those (they’re bound, in hardback, in collections of three per copy) I guess it would go over 100.
Recently I put myself on a book buying ban and insisted that I read whatever is on my shelf. And I have been having a ball. I finally read the second-hand copy of The Remains of the Day and was spellbound. This House of Grief most recently held me by my shirt collar and wouldn’t let me go. Fates and Furies and Slade House had sat on my shelf for some time, and I enjoyed them both immensely.
What have I learned from all of this? One, don’t buy into hype. It leads to a let down more often than not. But, more importantly, two; do listen to the people whose opinions you trust (a rag-tag collection on twitter)- they’ve not led you astray just yet.
And Keep. Buying. Books.