Friday, January 04, 2008

Can you have too many books?

I always enjoy Lucy Mangan's column in the Guardian but last weekend's should hit the spot with my fellow bibliophiles. I'm quoting some of the relevant paragraphs but it's worth reading the whole article to read about a unique filing system!

Oh, thank God. What a relief! And just at the last moment, too... I had, you see, been about to insert my absolute, final, will-be-accomplished-if-it-kills-me list of New Year's resolutions into the laminating machine. I would thereby have been committing myself irrevocably to a promise postponed for several years - namely, not to buy any more books until I've finished reading the ones arrayed along the Read Next shelf, piled up in the fireplace and stacked semi-neatly on the floor of the sitting room, study, bedroom and kitchen. And on the stairs. And under the bed. You get the idea. Lots of books. Unread.
Saving me this year from taking unwanted vows is a line I came across in Nick Hornby's The Complete Polysyllabic Spree from Gabriel Zaid's So Many Books!, in which Zaid says that "the truly cultured are capable of owning thousands of unread books without losing their composure or their desire for more".
In 2008 I'm gonna get cultured. Or at least stop thinking of my unread books as needless extravagance, overindulgence, inexcusable surplus and start revelling in living amidst such splendid confusion, with so many worlds at my fingertips. And in the fireplace. Either way, this will require that my acquisitive instincts continue to be indulged, not denied. Starting, of course, with Mr Zaid's gloriously exculpatory tome.
I've bought/acquired three books so far in 2008 and ordered another one. I use the library heavily but cannot imagine not increasing my book collection over the year...can you?

3 comments:

Uriah Robinson said...

I have no other addictions so my book buying is a minor problem.
I think it would be easier to get Pete Doherty or Amy Winehouse off drugs than us bibliophiles off books.
At least our addiction is not as damaging to our health even if we do trip over the piles of books quite regularly.

Maxine said...

Yes, I've bought about 20 so far this year. I also went into the attic and "downloaded" (literally!) a couple of hundred that are up there, and took two bulging sacks to the charity shop -- all my Janet Evanoviches and J D Robbs and lots of others. I've got three more trips to do I think. (I will try the library for the hardbacks, or maybe the local hospital).
I just can't see a way either to keep the number of books down in total or to read a fraction of what I keep buying.

Caravaggio said...

Cor blimey I'm not sure that I'd consider myself cultured - I just thought I had a serious problem!!
I cant pass a book shop without buying something and I indulge in my ever changing interests in almost maniacal fashion, filling up the space under the bed with literally hundreds of books on topics from Renaissance history to the Chicago Mafia. I think of it as my own private book shop, to browse at my leisure. I had a clean out over Christmas to make way for the next wave of crime novels on course for the next few months, and it took me half an hour to move huge piles of unread stuff into my attic holding room.
I just love books. Being able to escape into a good story is a priceless experience and I am hugely appreciative that there is so much good reading to be enjoyed, and that I'm in a position to be able to indulge myself in this way. Though the PDSA is always a good home for the unwanted ones.