We Knew This Day Would Come…

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Library,” by Stewart Butterfield, licensed under CC BY 2.0

For years our friends and family have looked askance at those stuffed bookshelves and piles of books in various rooms of our abodes. People asked us why we were buying books when we already had plenty of books to read. People came up with a Japanese term to describe what we were doing–tsundoku, the piling up of unread reading materials. Some tried to invoke Marie Kondo on us to purge our books and only keep what gave us joy. One problem. Nearly all of them give us joy!

Somewhere, deep in our psyche, we knew this day would come. Bookstores and libraries would close. Even Amazon wasn’t a reliable source of books. We would have to rely on the books we have on hand. Forget the toilet paper! Would we have enough books on hand when the apocalypse came?

I’ve got that covered. Some time ago, I calculated that I probably won’t be able to read all the books in our home during my remaining life. It does mean I’ve begun to be more selective in buying new books, and occasionally, I realize that there is an unread book that at this point I’m no longer interested in reading.

I find many of my book-loving friends feel the same way. There is a bit of a sense of vindication, a bit of smugness as they look around at bored friends, and think to themselves, “all I need to do is pick up the next book on my “to read pile.” All along, we’ve lived with the dread that we would run out of books, perhaps a worse fate than running out of that Charmin. No worries, we have our hoard, carefully built up over the years.

Psychology Today article, published back in 2017 raises the question of what books we would want in our “Doomsday” library. English professor Gina Barrecca writes, “I want books and light enough to read them by; I want stories, and history, and poetry, and science and collections on art, music, architecture, religion.” She goes on to list the classic and contemporary authors and titles.

An interesting question is whether we have any books we want to re-read. If we did run out of unread books, would the books we have read and kept be ones we’d be eager to read again. Perhaps that question might also suggest the books that it is time to discard. If it isn’t a reference, and we’d never re-read it, why are we keeping it?

The best books are the ones that growth with us, that are new to us each time we read them because we are different than the last time we read them. It might be an interesting to look at our libraries to see how many of those books bring back fond memories of previous readings and beckon us to come visit again. Those books are a good investment, that keep paying us back reading after reading. When we have a library of those books, we truly are set, if not for the apocalypse, but at least for a long stay at home.

 

3 thoughts on “We Knew This Day Would Come…

  1. I set myself the task this year to go through the bookshelves and read/re-read everything there and keep what still interests me and pass on all those that might hold someone else’s attention. It will likely take some years – hopefully the self-isolation ends before I run out of books!

  2. Years ago I had a student who would run into my classroom when the weather forecast called for snow. She brought a grocery bag, a tote bag, back pack—anything and everything she could find—so she could borrow as many books as she could carry “just in case.” One day I said to her that I was certain she had a huge stack of unread books at home. And I imagine that you will love and understand her response as much as I did. She answered, “Of course I do, but they might not be the ones I want tomorrow!”

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