Auto Da Fe

30 01 2008

In which I briefly touch upon why I don’t like owning books.

I am not a voracious reader and am fairly disorganized (actually I thrive on chaos)

My parents are avid readers and collectors of books. We always had an entire room filled with books, in each house we moved to. (And we moved quite often). Everytime, we would get to pack and unpack all these books. Always look for homes with an extra bedroom or an office that could house all the books we carried. Now, almost all those books are gone. Some donated to a public library, some to a new library at an orphanage and most recently, a year ago, some more to a university library, after their entire library was totally ravaged and wasted in a flood.

I am sure I have inherited some of those genes – I still love books, though only when they are kept in libraries. Childhood memories of packing and unpacking, dusting and rearranging books have left me with a rather strong preference for libraries.

I love libraries, as long as I don’t have to maintain them. Besides there is always an element of surprise in libraries – entering one you never know what you will find. I love libraries, as they offer that silent space in my life. I can put stuff (books/videos/audios) “on hold” and not bother looking for, reading reviews and buying them. Just wait for a sweet little email to inform me, that someone actually took the trouble to order and keep it ready for me, to come pick it up.

Not maintaining a library at home means no bookkeeping. Keeping track of books lent or borrowed can test a lot of friendships. Then of course there is the issue of the unwashed masses that congregate at dinners or parties and utter the most inane things about the books on your bookshelf. (I realize bookshelves serve as display cases in many homes or as conversation starters, but sometimes I really don’t want to be explaining why I have Moshe Dayan’s autobiography next to Banker to the Poor… or that I am not a Zionist or worse, who Dayan is).

There is also the cost of ownership argument. What is the price of owning a book? Yes, that book you bought on Amazon for a dollar fifty so you would qualify for free shipping. Does it cost you just that? Not really. You will need to find space for it in your bookcase, pack, unpack, organize and lug it around each time you move. It will affect usable space in your house or your housing options, because bookshelves take up prime real estate – you are not going to put that bookshelf next to the sunny window or that musty closet, are you? And I am not even talking about hardcovers here.

[old draft from 10/25/2005.]




9 responses

31 01 2008

I am not a voracious reader…My parents are avid readers and collectors of books.

Ha. So much for my long-held theory that parents that read voraciously raise kids who read even more voraciously.

I love public libraries and know that I am blessed to be in a country (and a township) that has a fantastic public library system, but to be *always* reading under that 3-week (extendable, sure) deadline sometimes takes away the pleasure of reading leisurely. (Though most of my non-fic reading does come from the library.)

31 01 2008

I knew it. I do have a psycho memory. Go look up YL and see the post on Oct 25, 2005. I did because this post rang a bell.

31 01 2008

km: we are exceptional like that :) what can I say.

yes, a good library is a great blessing. also for someone who procrastinates as much as I do, the 3-week deadlines work just fine.

Veena, bingo! look at the big brains on you! precisely what got me started on this piece.

That reminds me of the time when I used to borrow books using your ID :) oh well.

1 02 2008

But you can have that element of surprise even at home – especially if you’ve got a whopping big collection. Noticing books you picked up and had forgotten you had, noticing books you keep meaning to read, isn’t that part of the fun?

2 02 2008

??! : True, true. Expect please refer to the rest of the post to see why having a whopping big collection comes in the way of our lifestyle. no se puede…

5 02 2008

Do not talk to me about moving with books. I have spent the last three weeks organizing the books into boxes that can go to the attic. I have no place for them. I hate books!

8 02 2008

I used to hoard books like Croesus until I realised that 1) I would not re-read most of them, 2) I’d never have the shelf space to store all the books I wanted to keep, 3) there were far more books that I wanted to read than I’d ever be able to buy. And I became a librarian’s best friend. And off went most of my tomes to unsuspecting friends and family and charity. But the looks I got from people when I handed over titles such as God’s Architect: Pugin and the Building of Romantic Britain..! I might have been a serial molester of wallabies…

21 02 2008

I agree about using libraries to the maximum. I don’t like buying books too, especially the ones (like pulp fiction) which I will need only for a plane ride. But you can’t find all the books you want to read in libraries. And sometimes (as you mentioned) buying books online is cheaper than the cost of going to the library.

The solution – keep books that you want to read and re-read. Donate the rest to libraries.

22 02 2008

Can’t help but agree. When we did up our house last year, couldn’t help but notice that the books took up as many boxes as everything else put together. Libraries are much much better.

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