Thursday Thoughts: The woes and joys of book-hoarding
It's time for another round of Thursday Thoughts! In case you missed it previously, I'm trying out this new format of posts so I can bring you all
ranting interesting thoughts during the week, even when I don't have book reviews to share.
In case you missed it on Monday, I reviewed a YA novel called Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, written by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. This book was so spectacularly beautiful that it is hard to put into the words. I saw myself in it, I could barely put it down, and I marked it as an "All-Time Favorite" on this blog after just one read—I might change that in the future, but I'm letting myself leave it for now at least.
This book lingered on my bookshelves for somewhere around five years.
|My current bookshelf setup|
(note that I've acquired more
books since I took this photo).
I'm definitely less of a book hoarder these days. I have three small bookshelves that are about half-and-half things I've read and things I haven't—which I still consider to be less than ideal, but it's way better than how things used to be.
So how did things used to be? (Cue the creepy violin music.) Well, imagine the bookcase in my room, the one I see most frequently (the center one in the picture), filled with books I didn't even care about.
Scary, right? Well, imagine a different bookcase downstairs filled with books I hadn't read (and a few I had) that I barely knew I owned—and then imagine a whole batch of books shoved in front of those first books because I had ran out of room.
By now you're screaming with terror. But keep going. Imagine some extra bookcases scattered across the house that have books from when I decided that one would be where I would keep the new/old books. (Of course, I would then forget that's where I decided to put books—so those books ended up practically lost to time.)
If you haven't fainted yet, well, I applaud you. I must say, this method of book storage did not work well for me. I had practically no clue what books I actually owned, everything sat on the shelves collecting dust and losing metaphorical luster, and, combined with my own fluctuating reading tendencies (which I'll talk about on another day), I barely made a dent in the collection by actually reading.
And that brings us to the cleaning out. With my books practically taking over my family's house and me doing nothing to get anything read, I began going through the piles of books and selling what I didn't want to the used bookstore. There are aspects of my life that reek of privilege, and I would say that buying books and then literally selling the books after never having read them is one of those aspects.
But besides that, these clean-outs were positively miserable. Imagine having to face piles—piles—of evidence that you have lost one of your favorite hobbies. Imagine picking up stories—stories that real human beings spent hours, months, years crafting for the world to enjoy, putting their heart on the page—and just throwing them out based on nothing more than whether you can even remember why you bought them in the first place.
The book I mentioned earlier, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, survived these clean-outs. But not because I wanted to read it so badly. On the contrary, it seemed like precisely the kind of book I would never pick up, would always ignore in favor of other, shinier books, would always assume was some kind of pretentious award-winner sort of novel that I didn't want to bother with.
That book stuck around pretty much because of my mother's sheer persistence—she would see me trying to get rid of it and then remind me that it had gotten great reviews and that I should read it. And I would nod along and keep it but never make any kind of effort to actually get it read.
At a friend's recommendation, I finally read the book. And it was incredible, and not pretentious at all, and I now love it deeply. And that made me realize two things.
One: the next time I ignore a book recommendation from my mother, I need to be slapped. (Preferably metaphorically, but still.)
Two: if it was just sheer luck that this book managed to stay with me all these years, then imagine—just imagine—how many gorgeous stories, how many works of art, how many potential favorite books that I could have remembered for a lifetime...were lost to the shelves of the used bookstore.
Even nowadays, with my more-organized manner of book organization, books still get lost in the crowd. I'll buy a set of books that I'm excited about, I won't read them fast enough because I'm a relatively slow reader, I'll buy a new set of books that I'm excited about now, and I'll forget about the old books that I didn't read.
As an example, I have a book on my shelves right now by Grace Lin—literally one of the best MG authors of all time—that has been there for months. Because I forgot about it. And I still don't know when I'll get to it. (Hopefully this summer.)
You might be thinking by now that I really need to just stop buying so many books. If I would just read what I have, and then buy the next batch of books, and maybe even clear out some of what I've already read to make room, then, you might be thinking, I would finally feel at peace.
But I'm not going to do any such thing. First of all, because I'm stubborn and help-rejecting. But I have better reasons as well.
I love my books. That's not so surprising with the ones I've read. I remember a time when they advertised e-books and e-readers because they saved space—you didn't need all the books you loved taking up space in your house!
My response is: what kind of person doesn't want all the books they love taking up space in your house? Even though I don't necessarily gaze upon every book I own lovingly every single day, my books act as a sort of comforting presence. I know that, up against my wall, I have entire worlds, entire experiences that characters have lived and that I have lived, rows of bound paper filled with love and wisdom.
And if I ever want to re-read a book that I have, or even flip through it for a few seconds, there's no charging of e-readers or buying of new books—I just walk over and grab the book. Not that I do so very often, but hey, it could happen! (These are the things hoarders tell themselves.)
Even with the books I haven't read, though, I still like having them around me. With my newly organized bookcases, my sense of what books are waiting for me isn't perfect, but it's still way better than what I have from e-books or shopping lists.
Every so often, my eyes wander, and I notice books I had forgotten I had—and then I haven't forgotten them anymore. They're remembered. And if I can, I find a way to cram them in.
And if nothing else, with a set of bookshelves crammed to the brim, and one book at a time getting read, I always know one thing about myself: I am a reader. Or at least a book lover. With completely full bookshelves (couldn't resist) like mine, no one will ever mix me up for those people in magazines with their whopping 7 books artfully arranged on the decorative shelf.
Do I sacrifice practicality and space? Yes.
Have I missed out on wonderful experiences? Almost definitely.
But does my room represent who I am? I don't think it could possibly do so more.
Am I more aware than ever of what books I want to read? Totally.
In short: as a book-hoarder, even with all of my behavior's shortcomings, am I happy?
Yes. I am.
If you've had your own experiences with book-hoarding, there's no shame here—let me know in the comments! Check back on Monday for my next book review, and stop by a week from today for my next round of Thursday Thoughts!