I’m going to start this post with the disclaimer that my words may hit a nerve with one or two of you. It’s never my intention to offend, rather open a door for discussion. We’re going to talk about book hoarding and what it means for books when people collect them, yet never get around to reading them.
Nothing sends a shiver down my spine more than when somebody tells me they have more books than they have room for, or that they have over 5000 books with the majority unread.
I know one lady who spends her daily lunch hours in an old used bookstore, bringing home at least 20 books a week .I swear to god she spends more time shopping for books and she does reading them. I know another who has at last count, three plastic tubs of paperbacks hidden under her bed so that her husband won’t find them. These too go unread.
But why? Why do people collect books only to hide them away or stack them up in boxes and bags? This obsession with owning books must feed more than a desire to read. It’s an expression of something deeper, an unspoken need that manifests in book hoarding.
My grandmother collected salt-and-pepper shakers. She had a 6 x 5 wood and glass shelf that hung on a wall in her living room. I spent countless hours of my childhood staring at the shakers and making up stories about them. When my grandmother passed away one of my cousins and I split the shakers. I got the ones that meant the most to me; the ones that my mother had given to my grandmother, the ones that my aunt, who was a second mother to me, had given to her and the ones that my grandmother talked about the most. These salt- and- pepper shakers now sit in a cabinet in my kitchen along with several others that friends and family have given me over the years. When I ran out of shelf space I said “enough” I’m not collecting them anymore, just as my grandmother stopped when she ran out of room. At some point the objects themselves can become meaningless and the act of collecting for collecting’s sake takes over.
Books are meant to be read. Authors do not spend countless hours pouring their souls into their work only to have us collect them to be put in bags and bins and hid away for secret storage. When we do this the stories and words contained in these books lose all their value. They become objects with no real meaning. When we buy books and hide them we are taking away someone else’s chance to buy them and actually read them.
This is what puts a shiver down my spine when someone brags about his or her book hoarding/collecting. They are disrespecting the stories and authors who write them. They are taking them away from other readers who will appreciate them in the way books are meant to be appreciated. If you buy it, are you going to read it? If not, you may want to ask yourself “why”.