Is there still any point in collecting books?

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Is there still any point in collecting books?

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1SpikeSix
Editat: des. 13, 2015, 5:39am

Is there still any point in collecting books?

A thought provoking item from Howard Jacobson, https://www.librarything.com/author/jacobsonhoward-1 one of my favourite authors, on our addiction of stacking up books. Most of us will recognise ourselves in his article.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-35069707

Note the black and white photo of a schoolboy (1940s?) beside a school radiator festooned with one-third-of-a-pint-free-school-milk bottles thawing out after being stacked outside the school gates and freezing in the early morning. I remember it well. :)

2ahef1963
Editat: des. 13, 2015, 5:52am

Of course there's a point. Being surrounded by books is the point. I love that in my house there are books everywhere. Tables, shelves, my dresser, my wardrobe, my bathroom counter, my desk, they're everywhere, and it's comforting. Mine don't smell like young Mr. Jacobson's do, but I swear that's there's an aroma of paper and words and paragraphs and thoughts. When I was younger I wanted to live in a library, and now I practically do, just one of my own making.

3.Monkey.
des. 13, 2015, 6:30am

4southernbooklady
des. 13, 2015, 9:15am

>1 SpikeSix: What drives me to hold onto my books? And why do I keep books I've already read?

1. Pure unadulterated greed.

2. The same kind of panic about not having anything to read that caused my mother in law to fill closets full of toilet paper so she would never, ever have to face running out.

3. The book cases act as sound dampeners for the band during practices.

4. They also mean I don't have to bother with putting pictures up on the walls.

5. When the big one hits and armegeddon is upon us, all knowledge will not be lost as long as my living room stays relatively intact.

6. Books make me happy.

Interestingly, no one asks this about the other arts—what drives you to replay a record if you’ve already heard it? Why keep looking at a photograph if you have already seen it? Clearly, our response to books is not just about receiving information, reading is an emotional activity—a journey of discovery and self discovery, and as such bears revisiting and repeating.

Books (like bananas) are good.

5southernbooklady
des. 13, 2015, 9:20am

>1 SpikeSix: What drives me to hold onto my books? And to keep the ones I've already read?

1. Pure unadulterated greed.

2. The same kind of panic about not having anything to read that caused my mother in law to fill closets full of toilet paper so she would never, ever have to face running out.

3. The book cases act as sound dampeners for the band during practices.

4. They also mean I don't have to bother with putting pictures up on the walls.

5. When the big one hits and armegeddon is upon us, all knowledge will not be lost as long as my living room stays relatively intact.

6. Books make me happy.

Interestingly, no one asks this about the other arts—what drives you to replay a record if you’ve already heard it? Why keep looking at a photograph if you have already seen it? Clearly, our response to books is not just about receiving information, reading is an emotional activity—a journey of discovery and self discovery, and as such bears revisiting and repeating.

Books (like bananas) are good.

6SpikeSix
Editat: des. 13, 2015, 12:17pm

>5 southernbooklady: Lovely response, thank you!

Like you, I feel my home is insulated by the all-round bookshelves. But it's not just thermal is it? Would it feel the same if all the books were new and unread? I don't think so.

Your analogy of the photos and the records is perfect. Many of us read some books over and over, but even the books we don't come back to still wait patiently on the shelves, storing all their words without complaint until we are ready to pick them up again. Certainly, a room with one wall full of books (but not too tidy) feels different to any other room in the world.

Howard Jacobson's article touched a chord in me. “You can't just throw it away, its a book.”

7UtopianPessimist
des. 13, 2015, 1:15pm

Books give me calm and tranquillity. Keep me occupied, keep me thinking, keep me alive. I still mourn books that I have lost over the years - to donation, to friends, to carelessness. In fact, I still mourn a book I never owned that was in the children's library that I went to as a very young child. Those were books to mourn...with library bindings, beautifully colored and detailed pictures, and very special smells.
Who will have my books when I depart this life? I don't know. But they will live on. And I am happy for each one that finds someone else to read it.

8Limelite
des. 13, 2015, 5:47pm

1. Because within each book is another world where I could not visit otherwise. And like countries I have visited and returned to again and again, so can I books.

2. Because at night when I reach out in the dark and my hand encounters a book, I know I am not alone and have a friend that can help me get back to sleep should I need to call on it.

3. Because knowing I have more books in my immediate environment than I can possibly read in this life makes me feel happy in the way the monied feel knowing they'll never run out of dough.

4. Because a book within reach can often settle a point of contention without anyone feeling bad about the decider or decision.

5. Because if it weren't for stacks and rows of books in the house where the dust can land and peacefully accumulate, my house would be a dirty mess.

9abbottthomas
des. 13, 2015, 7:05pm

>1 SpikeSix: Thanks for the link to the milk picture - the memory of the always-sour smell is a madeleine moment ;-)

It's a good article. There must come a time when one stops accumulating (well, I suppose there must). There is a feature in this weekend's FT about Maggs Bros., the Berkeley Square antiquarian booksellers who are relocating after more than 80 years. In the clear out they turned up a letter from Henry James written in 1913 asking to be removed from their mailing list. He wrote: "I am chiefly interested in never again purchasing books; being very old and having already so many more than I can house or read." Didn't really see him as a quitter! and he was only 70!!

10Esta1923
des. 14, 2015, 1:34am

Just stumbled upon this group.....
How lovely to find people who think as I do!!

112wonderY
des. 14, 2015, 8:37am

When I read a book, I'm forming a relationship. Once I'm done, I could toss it away. But do you do that to your friends once you've made them?

12Cecrow
des. 14, 2015, 8:38am

I don't have an enormous collection, maybe 400-500 or so. There's definitely pleasure in scanning the shelves that I've given up trying to explain to my wife. I do winnow my collection though, removing titles that have sat there long enough to convince me their contents weren't memorable enough to warrant keeping them. I think what remains is always like a catalogue of "what stuck" among everything I've read so far, so your eyes might sweep the shelves and accurately assess me pretty well. That's probably something I read somewhere, judging people by the books on their shelves, and so I like to judge whether this is me as I currently am and remove a title or two. And it makes my wife happy to see I'm controlling it (while I'm much more quietly adding just as many or more ... ).

13SpikeSix
Editat: des. 14, 2015, 10:36am

>9 abbottthomas: So, Henry James thought he was old and would need no more books when he was just a boy of 70 in 1913? How times change. Sad to say that wherever Maggs Bros Bookshop move to they will probably no longer hear a nightingale sing. :)

>2 ahef1963: Howard Jacobson's ego will take a boost when he hears you describe him as “young”, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-35069707 . He won't mind my saying he looked a bit wrinkly when he and I shared the same small village workplace and that was a good few years ago.

14lesmel
des. 14, 2015, 12:19pm

The article and collecting is also being discussed here: http://www.librarything.com/topic/207112

15southernbooklady
des. 14, 2015, 12:33pm

>6 SpikeSix: Many of us read some books over and over, but even the books we don't come back to still wait patiently on the shelves, storing all their words without complaint until we are ready to pick them up again.

I think I've said this before, but the adage that you can never step in the same river twice applies to me and books. I'm never the same person when I pick up a book to read again -- I've changed, so I'm bringing new experiences to my relationship with the story. It follows that I will find something new in it that speaks to the person I am now.

In fact, it is the books where this doesn't happen, where their relevancy seems stuck in what I used to be or think, that I tend to say have not "aged well." Like many teenage girls I was a huge fan of Anne McCaffery's "Dragonriders of Pern" books. But on reading them again, I've found them to be pretty shallow. On the other hand, Ursula Le Guin's "Earthsea" books I still like very much (especially the second one!). They still feel "true" to me, even though when I read them as a girl I was focused on the adventure and when I read them now the adventure is secondary to the emotional undercurrent the stories have.

16Limelite
des. 14, 2015, 8:16pm

>10 Esta1923:

Welcome! Newcomers make groups thrive. Pull up your comfiest chair and idle away some time visiting the topics started by members just days "older" than you. Look forward to reading a new topic started by you!

17TLCrawford
des. 15, 2015, 1:45pm

My library is really a few collections that I have different reasons for keeping.

I have a few, very few, books from my teenage years and some from even earlier. I don't keep them to reread I keep them for nostalgia.

I still have a lot of fiction, crime fiction for the most part that at one time I called my "retirement fund". First editions of award winning books and authors but as I told Walter Mosley as he signed my copy of Devil in a Blue Dress I will let my heirs worry about their value.

My cookbooks and pamphlets got started when I bought four boxes of old books at an auction. They are interesting to browse through and helpful for "experimental food night"

Most of what I keep on my shelves these days are non-fiction, US history, historiography, non-fiction that was published to cover current events but that have become history with the passage of time. It is a little more focused than it sounds.

18alco261
des. 16, 2015, 8:13am

A room without books is like a body without a soul - Cicero

19rocketjk
des. 16, 2015, 4:07pm

Yes, there is still a point to collecting books. I enjoy it; that's the point! I can echo the sentiments that many here have already expressed. The books I have that I've already read feel like old friends, and they often help me harken back to the time in my life when I read them. Each book that I haven't read represents a tantalizing possibility for "travel," learning and enjoyment. Also, I'm thinking of posterity. I mean, my biographers are going to want to see my book collection, aren't they? That goes for my vinyl collection, too, while we're at it. I should mention that I own a used bookstore.

202wonderY
des. 16, 2015, 4:39pm

>19 rocketjk:
Also, I'm thinking of posterity. I mean, my biographers are going to want to see my book collection, aren't they?

I like that! Can I borrow it?

21rocketjk
des. 16, 2015, 6:16pm

#20> Can you borrow it? I rarely lend books and I rarely lend witty sayings, and for the same reason: nobody ever brings them back! However, I am perfectly happy to share with you!

22Cliff-Rhu-Rhubarb
des. 21, 2015, 5:39pm

I don't think my book-collecting serves any purposes other than giving me pleasure, and making me feel more erudite than I actually am.

As collecting books doesn't seem to harm others, or be overly environmentally destructive, I have no reason to question whether it has any greater utility. Life is short and books are nice.

23Limelite
des. 21, 2015, 6:12pm

>22 Cliff-Rhu-Rhubarb:

Life is short and books are nice.
Sums it up perfectly for me.