Books Are Not Knick-Knacks
  Up Late    November 11, 2017     Eric Larkin


Every few months, it seems, there’s some new study showing that folks prefer actual physical books to electronic books. Of course, this is good news for bookstores and libraries. It’s also just nice to know that someone proved with science-y stuff what most of us already suspected. But it does present a problem for us voracious readers: where to put all those books.

If you are a magically cursed Beast who lives in a huge castle, this is not a problem. However, if you are an Angeleno, or any kind of person who does not live in a huge castle, your reading habits will eventually fill every nook and cranny of your living space – which sounds cool, but is really not. You might want to use all those books to give your digs an aesthetically pleasing look/feel – a la that magically cursed Beast’s castle – but in regular-sized living quarters it’s likely to end up looking cluttered and dusty. The wide array of book cover styles and colors might even knock the “look” of your place askew. (Of course you can use vintage books for a specific look, but those will be mostly decorative, right? We’re talking about the ever-growing stack of books you actually read.) So, there are at least a few reasons why it’s not so great to own a large library of physical books, though you will probably say, “I don’t care! I love them so! I want all of them!”

Let me suggest, at risk of being accused of heresy, that there is one important reason why you should avoid having a big library, even if you don’t mind the clutter: books are not knick-knacks.

Don’t be mad; please give me a chance to explain.

Imagine an apple tree. When all those apples starting popping out on the branches, it really is beautiful: they’re round and shiny and red, contrasted with the flat, green leaves and long, gnarly, brown branches – plus the scents? — ah — it’s just perfect. But you’re not supposed to stand there looking at them for very long. You’re supposed to pull those things down and eat them. That’s what they’re for. Then you lob that core out onto the ground, and its seeds make more trees.

Get it? Books are beautiful, yes, but they are meant to be read. So read that thing and then chuck it out onto some fertile ground: give it to someone. Share the book.

Obviously, there will be exceptions. That really nice version of The Hobbit your dead aunt Mabel gave you is not going anywhere. Your autographed Ta-Nehisi Coates, your first edition To The Lighthouse, and your belovéd, read-to-death, held-together-with-duct-tape biography of Andre the Giant – you will keep them. But all that other stuff… do you really need to have it on hand? If it’s informational, can’t you just refresh your memory with a quick look-up on the Googs? If you really think you’ll read it again, can’t you just get it from the library or buy it again used (like, from us, for instance)? In the meantime, that very copy just sitting on your shelf could be out there enlightening someone you care about. Don’t be a hoarding 1%er; give it away.

Don’t hoard books; share them. Don’t lend books; give them away. Don’t recommend a book to a friend; trade them your copy for one of their recommendations.

It’s tough to let those beauties go, but if a book is collecting dust on your shelf, it cannot do its job.

Of course, with all that trading and giving of books in and amongst your circles, you may find that your library does not shrink at all. Ah, well. At least you tried.



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