Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Why I Will Never Give Up My Books

I've recently had various friends, colleagues, and acquaintances make comments about how I should get an e-reader, or sell my books, or that I have too many bookshelves and shouldn't need more, or that bookshelves are great for displaying knick-knacks but not much else.

I've been collecting books for a long time - pretty much since I got my first job.  I have several books I bought as a teen, but my collection really took off once I stopped flatting and had a whole house to expand into, rather than just a bedroom.  We currently have two large bookshelves and two medium bookshelves that house our burgeoning collection, plus two small bookshelves for recipe books and university books.  But our bookshelves are overflowing: I want to buy two more large bookshelves at least, and probably a long, low bookshelf to go under the window in our study, although we're still finalising logistics.  And this may still not be enough, because most of our bookshelves are stacked two books deep, with more stacks of books on our bedroom floor or various other strategic spots about the house.

I also can't bear to part with books.  I don't even sell my university textbooks, as a rule.  The only time I will part with a book is if I accidentally buy two, which happens on occasion: browsing a second-hand store, I spot a bargain, can't recall if I have that particular book, and buy it, only to find its twin on the shelf at home.  I have a few books of this type that I'm not sure what I'm going to do with yet - donate them? sell them? trade them? - and so they sit in a pile by the door, because I can't bring myself to get rid of them.

I recently bought a Penguin Classics edition of The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Surprisingly, I've never read this book, and I wanted to remedy that.  The edition I bought is a hardcover with a slipcover.  It's absolutely gorgeous:

The back inside flap of the slipcover included a detachable bookmark with a quote from the book, which you can see peeking out the top in the above picture.  I detached it quickly, before I could convince myself that the book would be worth more if I didn't - because that's not why I buy books.  I didn't buy this book to sit on a shelf looking beautiful - I bought it to read and love and read again, and damage will be done.

When I carefully removed the slipcover to start reading, I was thrilled - the actual hardcover of the book is a beautiful creamy white.  The pages are smooth and heavy and the book smells lovely - the "new parchment" smell that Hermione smells in the Felix Felicis potion.  The book was so beautifully presented I could barely bring myself to handle it - but I soon found myself lost in the world of the book.

I don't recall the last time I was so drawn in by the sensual experience of reading, but it reminded me why I love my books so much.  A book is so much more than ink and paper - it is a whole world, brimming with possibilities.  It is the simple pleasure of curling up in bed with rain beating on your window and a book in your hands.  It is the feel of the paper under your fingertips, the pleasure of turning each page and seeing your progress through the book.  It is an escape, or knowledge, or a new friend.  It is the shared experience, the collaboration between writer and reader and other readers and critics.

Above all, it is a love that only others who share my love of books can truly understand.


  1. I toootally agree. We just moved into a larger space so I could fit in another bookshelf to spread my books out a bit more attractively... but now I'm just buying more to fill it up again :-) I'd love a library.

  2. My dream is to one day have a house with an actual dedicated library room. That would be fabulous! The problem with many Queensland homes is that they have huge floor-to-ceiling walls of windows to let in the sun - but of course that means less wall space for my bookshelves! So they get squeezed in wherever they can.

  3. I love books too. I cannot see myself ever converting to e-readers or ipads or kindle type things (never say never)...
    I just love turning the pages and feeling like I'm relaxing with a book, not staring at a backlit screen.
    I don't hoard books, but I LOVE utilising my local library and I always buy a new book when I'm going to go on a holiday - it's a treat I really look forward to!

  4. Yea, I know I should "never say never" but I really can't see a situation where that would happen :) I use my library a lot too, but because I'm a person who re-reads books over and over, I prefer to buy my books whenever I can!

  5. People get so binary about books and eReaders, as if they're like Highlander and CAN-BE-ONLY-ONE! Both have their purposes. You can have both. You can have a little bit of one and a lot of the other. You can be exclusively committed to one kind. It is all up to the individual, and just because they make eBooks, doesn't mean paper books are ever going to disappear.

    As a librarian, I don't care a jot what format people prefer. What I care about is the content, so long as people are reading something, and good content is being allowed to be produced in all formats (not just one or the other), I'm happy.

  6. Oh yes, I can certainly see a case for an eReader for holidays and that kind of thing. Also, eReaders can help with the publication of more indie-style books that otherwise might never find a publisher or an audience. I agree that getting people reading is a good thing, and if it takes an eReader to do that, then so be it. But I can't see myself converting 100% and getting rid of my ink-and-paper books. My preference is definitely for ink-and-paper over eReaders.

  7. I really want to see the font and size of it inside this edition, do you have a picture? Often I buy books and the text is way too small. Thanks

    1. Hi! Sorry, but I don't have a picture handy and it's currently packed in a box because we're moving soon :( But I don't recall it being small. It's a fairly small book so they didn't have to squeeze it in.