You can always tell a book nerd by looking at their shelves. Book lovers are not ones for moderation, so they'll have several no matter how tiny their living quarters are.
After years of acquiring books faster than the rate at which one could read them, you start to look around and wonder what it would be like to know exactly what book you were going to read next because you only had one choice.
Unfathomable, right? Can you imagine only buying one book at a time, reading as you go, and not stockpiling years upon years of books?
I can't. And I don't know that I ever will. Many book lovers begin saddling themselves with a to-be-read list a mile (or two, or three) long as soon as they're conscious of their love of books. I've loved reading for as long as I can remember, thus I've also had a towering reading list for as long as I can remember. The idea of being completely unburdened by a massive list of books is unimaginable to me---I've been acquiring books for far too long. I love finding new books almost as much as I enjoy reading them.
Sure, it's possible to will yourself not to buy any more new books until you've read all the ones you own. It's a noble effort, though if you've reached the point at which you feel you need to curb your book buying, you've already gone too far. It'll take you years to read down your shelves and in the meantime new, juicy, tempting, succulent books are being released. Even if you're not buying the books then, you're probably making a mental note of them. You've probably still got a running list going.
Even as burdensome as a to-be-read list can be, I find it inextricable from my reading life. There are things I'd rather do than stop buying books, like ice skating over my own fingers.
I'd be lying if I said I weren't at least a little jealous of people who become book lovers as adults. It must be nice to remember a time when I didn't have all these books staring at me, begging to be read when I'm looking at some shiny new book. But even if I could start over, how long would it be before I'd racked up another list?
Not long. This I know because not buying new books was my reading resolution one year. I didn't buy new books for 3.5 months (that's how long I lasted) and during that time I wasn't exactly powering through the shelves of my home library. I'd been getting more books at the library, I'd been sent books to review, I'd made a running list of books I wanted, and my sweet fiancé signed me up for a book subscription box as soon as he heard my goal. He'd told me a few times, "I'd just accepted that I was likely going to be buying you books for every gift-giving occasion."
My goal with the reading resolution was to see what it would be like for people who had no means to buy books and had to rely on the library, but I realize now that I'm already too far gone to make such an experiment viable.
What appeals to me about people who don't have a towering pile of books at home is that they can buy books guilt-free. If you only buy books when you need something new to read, it's easy to justify. But if you've got mountains of books at home and you still want more, it's harder to convince yourself. Not having to do the mental battle of "do I really need this?" is, I've realized, more of what I was looking for from my reading resolution.
I have decided that I need to focus my efforts to not feeling guilty over my book obsession. Everyone has their vices and mine happens to be good for me. There's something to be said for that.