A few days ago I went to the new Value Village that opened in my neighbourhood and I was pleasantly surprised that they had a book section. For every used book-lover out there, you know this is bad news. I browsed through the books, picking out some of my most sought-after titles which were all in really good shape. I had at least 15 books that I wanted to get right then and there for a discounted price, but I had to stop myself.
At home, I have more than enough books sitting on my bookshelves, all of which I brought home with me in that same rush of enthusiasm that I felt that evening in Value Village. I have spent more than enough money on unread books, and here I am willing to spend even more on books that will, undoubtedly, collect dust on my shelves as I try to go through my collection of to-reads.
And then I got even more contemplative. Do I love to buy books for the notion that I actually will devour and treasure them, or do I love to buy books simply to say I have a large book collection? There are many people I know who have half the books I have and love each and every one because they only bought the ones they loved most from the library. Then there are people who have 3 times the collection I do and know only half of the books well enough as dear friends, and the rest are more like acquaintances.
So which am I? I only have two books shelves-full of books, which is not nearly as much as I would like in the future. I love the look of books in a home—bookworms have that air of knowledge, of secrets revealed, of many lives lived. I want people to come into my home one day and say, “Wow, look at all those books! I’m so jealous!”
But more importantly, I want to have a large collection of books that are like dear friends to me. Of course, I don’t enjoy every book I buy—I have plenty of books on my shelves that didn’t floor me, but I didn’t give them away. Those books are like extended family members who maybe you don’t get along with but feel you still have invite to family functions. They still have a place on my shelves because at one time I had hopes for them. And maybe those hopes were unfulfilled for me, but maybe my children will enjoy it or a friend of mine will like to borrow it. It’s these off chances that make me hold onto these books, making my book collection continue to grow.
Books have been my escape since childhood, and maybe, in some very strange way, they’re also like my walls. I take a book with me everywhere just in case I feel awkward in a social situation, am bored or just need to find out what happens next in the book. Heck, I even took Harry Potter with me to Disneyland! I feel protected by my books. Perhaps that’s also why I feel such a need to have walls of books surrounding me.
Maybe I’m not supposed to know why I collect books. Maybe I’m just supposed to collect them because they make me happy. Maybe I’ll never read every single book I buy (I truly hope this is not the case!), and maybe that’s okay.
Maybe I’m just supposed to thank every book that’s ever entered my life, and hold onto them as important experiences—some as best friends, some as acquaintances, and perhaps even some as enemies. But they each shape who I am, and maybe that’s why I’m meant to collect as many books as possible. For the hope that they will one day change my life or another’s.
And besides, a home just isn’t a home without books.