Too Many Books–Is There Such a Thing?
Well, according to the brilliant Edward Gorey, no, there is no such thing as too many books. Normally, I would agree with this sentiment. Which is why my bookcases are stuffed to capacity and I’m STILL buying more books. But then I read Michael Bourne’s essay at the Millions about his New Year’s Resolution–to read FEWER books.
I know I talk all the time about reading. And it’s true, I love reading. Always have. If I don’t get at least an hour of reading time every day, I get cranky. And yet. Bourne lists some very compelling reasons to start looking at my reading patterns with a more critical eye. Here are a few signs that I may be reading too many books:
- See above statement about getting cranky if I don’t get enough reading time. This is a sign of addiction, people.
- I compulsively keep my “to read” shelf on Goodreads updated. Every time I get a book recommendation, see an interesting book at the bookstore, read a good review, I throw the book on my “to read” shelf. Current “to read” count? 170 books. And it keeps GROWING. While on the one hand, there is never a time where I feel I don’t know what to read next; on the other hand, it also leads to a rather crushing sense of guilt that I will never be able to read EVERYTHING I want to read. Reading shouldn’t be about guilt!
- Part of this compulsion to constantly be reading is due, in part, as Bourne elaborates, to a competitive spirit. Yes, I record what I read on Goodreads, and here on the blog, so people can see what I’m reading. But it’s not about showing off or reading more books than others in that social network. It’s more about seeing how many books I can read, how many pages I can fit in before work, how many classics I can get through. Again, not a healthy compulsion.
- One of my Christmas gifts from Joe was a subscription to The New Yorker, which I’m quite excited about (the first issue came this week!). While I’m really looking forward to reading it, there’s also a part of me that’s panicking about how I’ll manage to read all of them–it’s a weekly magazine! And how will I split my reading time between books and The New Yorker?? I can’t quite seem to accept that it’s okay if I don’t read EVERY issue from cover to cover, and it’s also okay to put down the book for a day or two. It will be there.
- Reading is good for you. It’s a really good hobby to have, I would argue. However, for me, it can stand in the way of other activities which would also be good for me. Not just cleaning the apartment or running errands, but things like taking walks or calling friends.
- For me, and for Bourne, reading is a crutch–a safe excuse to prevent me from sitting down to write or work on other projects. After all, reading helps your writing right? Yeah, not if you’re not actually doing any writing at all, ever.