I refuse to collect books.
Seems strange, I know, seeing as I love stories. I write them, I read them, I talk about them and I sometimes dream about them. How then could I refuse to collect them?
I refuse to become a book hoarder, an acquisitive bibliophile, a man adrift on seas of paper and ink, because I think it’s antithetical to reading. Most book-lovers don’t. They long to glide with Mark Twain down the mighty Mississippi, to sift murder mysteries with Dorothy Sayers, to plumb the mind of an artificial intelligence with William Gibson. So they buy books. They stack them up. They neglect to dust them. They almost certainly never read them. They become something pagan, as though purchasing them imparted knowledge, like the ancients who thought eating an enemy’s flesh granted one his powers. I knew a pastor who had so many tomes that he set receding bookshelves along one wall in his office three or four stacks deep. Upon entry, goggling visitors would ask, “Have you read all of these?” The pastor would wryly respond, “Some twice.” The visitors didn’t usually get the joke.
So in order to remain a reader and not become a collector, I’ve restricted my collection to a single middle shelf in my bookcase. There are about ten books there right now, books that sparked my imagination or dazzled me with their thematic depth or--in a case or two--brought me to tears. They’re books with creased spines and bent covers, loved things that will likely turn to dust before my interest in them wanes. Don’t be surprised to find a post or two about the middle shelf’s contents.
And please, I urge you, for reading’s sake, get a middle shelf of your own.
(Picture: CC 2006 by hawkexpress)