I can hear people gasp at the audacity of this question; of course there’s no such thing as too many books! I used to exclaim that loudly and proudly. As a young child I decided I was going to collect ALL the books and if I’m ever doubting my own determination I just need to walk around my house to see the stacks, boxes and cases full of books that I managed to collect in the 17 years since making that proclamation. I haven’t done a recent count, but I’m sure I’m clocking in at 350 volumes right about now. (boyfriend’s estimation is closer to 500, but we won’t know for sure until the end of the month)
I know that there are at least some of you who’ve had the same thought rolling around in their heads: “Maybe I have too many books.”
There is one specific time that question will definitely prop up; when you’re moving.
Suddenly these fantastic worlds are heavy and cumbersome to carry around, let alone when you have to figure out where to put them.
I am currently dealing with this conundrum. I’m moving from a student room into an apartment. The moment it was official, my parents decided to take this opportunity to bring my childhood collection over: 6 full moving boxes and 2 plastic tubs (also full) The books at my room fill 2 overworked bookcases, a few stacks and some grocery bags. This is by no means a boast. It’s a head scratcher.
I’m crying on the inside when I think about the sheer logistics that calls for such an undertaking. Many boxes will have to go down 4 flights of stairs and up 3. Everyone that I ask to help me with this daunting task will hate me. Heck, I kind of hate me a little.
When I was in my old room on Tuesday to pack up my stuff, I just had the slight inclination to douse the place in gasoline, set it on fire and never look back. No more headaches, no more worrying, no more wondering where I misplaced that one novel about pirates and ninja-clowns, no more endless stack of To Be Read novels that always seems to get bigger instead of smaller. Just peace and quiet.
Immediately after that thought though, I wondered what I was leaving behind if I did that; Quite a few Pratchett novels, illustrated by Paul Kidby; some of my favorite graphic novels; a book a friend of mine gave me, with a hilarious inscription; beautiful art books of works that I never may see in real life; books I never had a chance to discover, because I was so busy buying books.
And it made me think of all the times I spent in libraries when I felt depressed, the time I got my first salary that I spent entirely at the original Donner (I was 13 and not financially responsible). The many hours I spent ensconced in bed, with nothing to worry about, except whether or not everyone made it to the end of the story in one piece.
But what about e-books? Technology has come a long way! And you’re right. E-books are a great invention and since I’ve gotten a tablet, I’ve been reading them more often, but it’s not the same. There is no flick of the page, there is no olfactory sensation. I could just pick up one of my Harry Potters (Dutch edition), smell the sourly cheap paper and be transported back to the moment I was first reading them. I was 11, it was a holiday and my dad had given me the first one to get me out of his hair. E-books don’t really have that, at least not to the same extent.
So, back to the question: do I have too many books? Most probably. Since writing this article I’ve emptied out and counted one of the overworked bookcases, which contained 116 volumes. There are definitely some that I won’t read again, so I’ve decided to fly in the face of my 10 year old self and do a culling. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with them. I’ll probably wind up selling them or giving them away. That feels okay though. There will be other books I am definitely going to replace them with, because I’m a bibliophile with no sense of self control. However, as boyfriend pointed out, ‘there is such a thing as too many books, but that doesn’t mean it’s a problem.’