Thursday, February 28, 2008

Book Bind

Instapundit linked to this cool essay on books and, more precisely, bookshelves.

It's in response to a couple of people whose views on bookshelves are, let's say, disparate from mine. One holds that books are a presentation to the world of who you'd like to be. In my view, putting books up for show is probably the lowest form of status-seeking pseudo-intellectualism, and the only people I've known to do that were people who never read any books, ever.

The other, however, holds that all books in the bookshelf must have been read!

I've actually had that situation. When I was a kid. I would bring home six or seven books and read them that afternoon. (They were kids books, after all.) Then I would be bored until the next month's Scholastic catalogue came around. I haven't had that situation since--well, since someone gave me a book I didn't want to read. But there was a time when it was hard to find a book on my shelf I hadn't read.

For a few years, I taught martial arts at a rec center on Saturdays. The rec center was located next to a library, and Saturday was book sale day. I started bringing home bags full of books, at a pace even my younger, single, childless and unemployed self would have had a hard time keeping up with. The only criterion for me was whether the book had a $1 (or $0.25 or whatever the book cost) chance of being read.

Because to me, the bookshelf is like a library you have at home. Interested in Mechanical Engineering? I have a book on it. Maybe some sci-fi? Lots of that, and horror and fantasy fiction. The classics? Got those. Biographies of historical characters or celebrities? Check. Warfare throughout the ages? Sure thing.

If I want to read something right now, there's a good chance I have a book that fits into the cateogry. This, rather shockingly, does not prevent me from buying more books. I have eight full bookshelves in the house (after two collapsed from the weight) and several in the garage, and boxes more. One current project is to clean out the garage and store almost all the books there (for earthquake safety reasons).

One wonders if I could read them all at this point. I mean, I don't wonder that very often. I'd consider myself fortunate if I had that opportunity.

But I also have movies in my video collection I haven't watched. Music in my music collection I've never heard (or maybe only heard once). I've tons of games I've never played.

Not that, in the long run, this doesn't say something about me. But I'm not trying to make a statement (nor trying not to make a statement), just looking for storage.


  1. I have a library with approximately 5,000 books in it that I have accumulated over the years. Most are in storage in my moms house but I have piles around our apartment that drive my wife crazy. I used to haunt the Strand and other used book stores and have become an Amazon junkie. Usually I read about 3 books a week as I have a long train commute. But I know what you mean about having piles upon piles of books laying around.

  2. Yeah, I probably only have about 2K. I have a garage, though. I understand that's a relatively rare thing in your part of the country.

    This fellow here is a neighbor of mine. Back in the '90s we hung out in the same online pub on Compuserve (the Golden Age, pre-web), and when we had the earthquake--he was inches from Ground Zero--I went and helped him pick up his place.

    Wall-to-wall books, videos, CDs, etc.

    So that's what I think about when I look at my bookcases....


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