Can You Have Too Many Books?
There was a time when I didn't think it was possible to have too many books, but the more I read, the more I wonder.
This might sound strange coming from someone who lives and breathes books. It's halfway through the year and I've read 43 books so far. You would think at the rate I burn through them it would be impossible to have too many books. After all, between my partner and me, we have probably 500 in the house and that's a conservative estimate. And because we tend to weed our collection regularly (selling books we no longer want to Half Price Books helps fund the habit), most of the ones we have haven't been read (by us) yet.
I think every book lover acquires books faster than the rate at which they read them. Whether it's due to opportunity (such as seeing a book you want on sale), the thrill of carrying a bag of books home from the bookstore, people giving you books as gifts, or having a good library in your area, it's hard not to acquire books faster than you read them. It's just easier.
But lately, I've been feeling like my acquisition rate is a little out of control. Between bimonthly (at minimum) trips to the bookstore and two book subscription boxes, my shelves are filling up faster than ever before. It's partly due to us buying a house since we have more space now, and partly due to being at a stable job that affords me a book budget that doesn't leave me wanting.
This is obviously a good problem to have. Having too many books is preferable to not having enough books. The only bad thing is looking at my shelves and wanting to read all these books and knowing it's going to take me a decade to read them all, even if I quit my job and don't bring home any additional books. Which you know isn't going to happen. Sure, there are worse addictions, but I'm nonetheless a relentless addict.
There's also the trouble of time. I have to work and sleep and do other normal human things, like cooking and cleaning, that also take time, so I have a finite amount of free time that I could choose to spend reading. Not counting spending time with the people I love, there are other things besides reading I like to do, the main one being writing. I've found that when I'm reading, I tell myself I should be writing. And when I hit a block in my writing, I tell myself I should be reading. This means I never feel like I do enough of either.
And the thing about being a writer is, you have to read to be a good writer. You have to study the craft to be good at rendering words on the page. I can't just say, well, I've read enough of other people's stories, so I'm going to stop reading for awhile and focus on writing my own stories. It sounds logical in theory, but it just doesn't work in practice. Ask any writer. Reading and writing are two halves of the same whole (as it should be). I know why it takes writers so long to produce their work.
Nowadays, I do think it's possible to have too many books. I just don't think it's a bad thing. There's no telling when all these books on my shelves will get read, or if I'll lose interest in a particular book before I get around to it. I'm sure I'll die with just as many unread books on my shelves as I do now––just hopefully not all the same ones.
And at this point, it would be impossible to guess what books would be left. That's the fun of it.