There's something so satisfying about buying a book. It feels like you're going on an adventure. I suppose it's the old cliche about the "new book smell".
One night I was watching someone being interviewed on television against a solid wall of books. The newscaster asked, “Have you read all those books?”
The person replied, “Oh no, my room is so messy I put this up as the background.”
When someone walks into the library of the rectory and asks, “Have you really read all of those books”; I answer, “Well, almost all the introductions and first chapters and most of the final chapters I’ve have been skimmed-ish. So sure, yes. Absolutely.
The writer Susan Sontag was once asked if she had read all the books that lined the walls of her apartment, to which she snapped back, “Of course I read all my books.”
I remember the columnist William F. Buckley once writing that when a realtor showed Buckley and his wife the house they eventually purchased in Stamford, Connecticut, he was amazed that there was only one book on the whole property. Out in the garage apartment, there was a Reader's Digest Condensed Book anthologies left by the caretaker. Growing up in houses filled with books, Buckley was dumbfounded by people who possessed no books.
But the truth is that reading is not the same as loving books.
When Supreme Court Justice David Souter returned to New Hampshire in retirement, he moved from his family farm house in Weare to a single-floor home outside of the state capital, Concord. Souter told a disappointed Weare neighbor that the two-story family farmhouse was not structurally sound enough to support the thousands of books he owns.
The Japanese have a word for it:
which describes the pleasure of accumulating more books than you’ll ever have time to read cover to cover. The word is a clever pun combining two Japanese words. Tsun which comes from the verb meaning ‘to pile’ and doku from ‘to read’. Online, tsundoku cartoons annotate bookshelves with guilty jottings: "books I'd look smart reading in public"; "books I bought because the covers were pretty"; "books I don't ‘get’, but hold onto in the hope that some day I will." I might add: "books bought at Hudson’s while in airports", and "books given by friends insisting, "This is so you”.
Being quarantined for a fortnight, gave me the pleasure to spend two weeks with my library. The quarantine was a chance for me to embrace my
Books do furnish a room. But more than that, they furnish a mind and a life. Every book on my straining shelves is a trip, a prize, a friend, a consolation, a memory. We have inherited books from great-grandparents that sit on our shelves reminding us of lives that have gone before. Having shelves and shelves of books is an insight into the person who has accumulated all of them not just because of the subjects of the books on the shelves but because of their impulse to collect them. Or, as John Calvin would , put it, you’re either predestined for
or you’re not.