Twice today I have come across the question of whether buying lots of books presents a problem. No way!
I’ve just started Nick Hornby’s, Ten Years in a Tub, which is a monthly diary of book buying and reading. Hornby happily acknowledges buying more books than he will read and doesn’t judge himself. Amen! I can’t wait to read the rest of Hornby’s book. The first chapter was great, and I love Hornby’s writing. The subject of potentially excessive book buying also arose In today’s New York Times. In the paper’s Social Q’s section (a wonderful and frequently hilarious social advice column), a reader writes for advice about what to do with a mail person who repeatedly complains and mocks the reader for buying lots of books. Really? Is this an assault on literacy? The Social Q’s correspondent usually publishes letters from people with truly odd perspectives who need to be brought back to earth and common courtesy/ Happily today, on the all important subject of buying books, the Social Q’s columnist is breathtakingly level-headed and merely offers some tactical advice on how to get the mail person to shut up.
It is true that is generally unwise to buy books in lieu of feeding your children. David Ben-Gurion’s wife famously complained that his family didn’t have enough to eat even as he continued to imports boxes of books from Europe. I get that this could be a problem. But the story I like better is the family that decided to make a budget to control their spending. After carefully allotting funds for food and shelter, the subject of setting a budget for buying books arose. Rebellion ensued because of an utter refusal to set a limit on book buying, and the proposed budget got tossed out the window. I can report that this family did in fact manage to feed and educate their their exceptionally bright and well-read child.
I get nervous around people who happily tell me they don’t read books. I have found that the best way to calm my nerves is to read more. We recently moved from a largish house with endless books shelf space to a smaller apartment, so we have had to deal with more books than we can fit into our new place. We happily gave away thousands of books to the local libraries and our friends, and our new place is still blessedly crammed with books. I find it virtually impossible to give away books I haven’t read yet, and I have a lot of them. It is important to have just the right book around, in case you need to lose or amuse yourself in times of stress. Also unread books hold such promise — they may be amazing! I know I take it to extremes, but there have to be worse flaws. I buy electronic books and visit the library, but there’s no therapy as comforting as browsing in a bookstore! For all the depressing reports of the demise of the books store, I am happy to report that the Upper West and East Sides of New York are hanging in there. I feel it is my duty to support them; it is a matter of taking personal responsibility.
So, don’t judge me for buying books, lots of them!