Sunday, July 26, 2009

Why Do You Own Books?

I saw this post recently on Maw Books Blog where Natasha admitted that she is not a re-reader but owns many, many books anyway. I was a bit surprised but even more so when going through the comment section and seeing how many people admitted to being the same or, even further, owning ridiculous amounts of books that they hadn't even read once. Comments like these shocked me --
"About 95% of the books I own haven’t been read."
Eek! I understand having a selection of unread books for different moods but this just seems ridiculous unless they own ten books and haven't read nine and a half of them. ::wink::

I have said it before but I consider most of my books as entertainment in the same way that I think of movies. Would I ever buy a DVD to watch it once and then just enjoy seeing it sit on the shelf? No way! So why would I do that with a book? And even better than a movie, the entertainment of a book can last for days! If I don't like a book, I don't keep it. And I'm even getting better about borrowing books from the library first instead of buying them unless I'm sure they will be keepers. If I love a book after I've read it at the library, I then put it on a mental list to buy at some point -- probably the point that I want to re-read it.
The way I see it, books are decorative but they aren't for decoration. Books are meant to be read. Otherwise, you're just a hoarder. What's the difference if you have a house full of old newspapers that you will never read again or craft kits that you will never assemble? Nothing. They're just there to satisfy some superficial need but they don't enrich your mind or your soul.

So my challenge to you non-re-readers is to head over to your shelves and find a book that you remember fondly. Pull it down ... and read it! Maybe you don't love it anymore or maybe you love it for entirely different reasons. How will you ever know if you don't read it again? If you do this, come back and comment on your re-read experience. If you are already a re-reader, help me convince the others why it's fun and exciting to revisit a book.

Looking fondly at my disintegrating books and those waiting to disintegrate,


  1. LOL....are you talking about me?? just kidding, but seriously, I have nearly 600 unread books, and about 10 books that I've read and plan to keep because i really loved them. CRAZY I KNOW, but I call all these books my "retirement stash". I alway think..what if when I'm old, I am a "shut in" and can't get to the library?? I do donate or give away books I've read in most cases, but I will reread one of my keepers as you suggested.

    Have a great week.

  2. Diane -- I love that you are planning for the possibility of being a shut in. ;) So, this is interesting to me. How many more books do you think you will accumulate? Do you buy new/used? All paperbacks? Do you plan for the future and buy big print when you can? I don't think I saw anyone give this specific reason but it seems more valid than "I just love to look at books" which a few people said.

    I own about 450 books of my own (not counting the husband's and Z's books) and I would say after a quick count that I've already read almost 100 of them more than once (some MANY times) and there's many more from the last few years that I plan on re-reading. I think my old age will be spent re-visiting old friends.

    Thanks for joining in the conversation!

  3. I have to say I don't own many books that I have read. The reason is because I give them away or trade them once I am finished. I do keep my favorites, though, and have several on hand that are DNF books, but that I think I might like at a later time (one example is Atonement). I have found myself borrowing more from the library than I used to. I hope to do more of that in the future and buy my favorites that I borrow more.

  4. I have more unread books than I care to admit, but it's not from lack of trying to get them all read! :) And I love rereading and I've been doing more of it this year than the past few years and enjoying it immensely. It's nice knowing you can revisit a story anytime you like!

  5. Rebecca - I understand not hanging on to books. I am considering doing a purge of books that I really don't think I will read again. I think my real amazement was at people who said that they kept all the books they had ever read but didn't plan on reading them again.

    Danielle - I hear you! I wish that all of my books were already read. :)

  6. Re-reading is one of my great pleasures. A book is never quite the same twice - each read is a different experience. Also as a bookdealer who works from home and has finite space (who doesn't) every book I keep has to be worth a re-read or private-me sells it to business-me and off it goes.

    I saw an antiques dealer give a talk once and he said that every year you should get rid of 25% of your collection. That way by the end of your life you end up with something wonderful - a collection of only the truly loved and valuable to you. No trash, no also-rans, no maybes - just the best stuff. I think that works with books too. Re-reads are the only way to work out what to keep!

  7. Jux - Yay for re-reading! I like the idea of culling the collection. I think one way that I've started doing that is by re-reading the books I have kept. I can think of two books from my collection that I've already gotten rid of recently this way. Perhaps I will start a re-read challenge that has choosing to keep or recycle as a requisite.

  8. I love books, as you already know! I began my collection because I just simply could not keep track of which books I had read and which ones I had not. I found myself reading the books not necessarily worthy of a re-read over and over again and felt that there was time better spent. To this day, I still prefer to own my books. Maybe someday I will get rid of the not-so-worthy ones, but I doubt it will be anytime soon. Afterall, it is rare that I find a book that I just cannot stand to own (though there have been a few). Maybe in a few years when we are planning our next (and last!) cross-country move I will begin a small purge . . . it would sure please my husband to not have to pack all those books again!! :)

    This has inspired me to write a discussion topic! When I get it written and posted, I will come back and let you know!!

  9. It more a matter of being a shopaholic when it comes to books. The rational side of me knows I shouldn't be buying more books but a good book deal is too hard to pass up. There is always a book that would be perfect for 'someday'. I could read 24 hrs a day for a year and I might get through my bookshelves. The book pile going out to the used book store every month is always smaller than the pile coming in. It's just a matter of numbers. Oh, and don't forget the library!

  10. Tif - You're funny! Sometimes I can't remember if I read a book either, especially something I might have read as a tween or teen because those books were from the library. I only started keeping a spreadsheet of what books I read last year but I wish I had them going back through the years.

    Chris - I'm much better at resisting books at the bookstore than at the library. Usually my library stack and queue are pretty large. After all, they're free!

  11. I can keep track of the books since I started my blog, but a spreadsheet would have been so nice in the pre-blog years! What a great idea!! Sure wish I would have thought of that!! :)

    Can't wait to join the re-reading challenge!! :)