I’ve loved stories since I can remember and have been reading and writing them since I was able to. But when I was probably ten or eleven years old it expanded from general love of stories to a love of books: the physical containers of such awesome worlds. That was about when lots of things that were familiar in my life began changing and in hindsight I probably became a book addict to cope. It seems innocent enough when you start–that little hit of anticipatory euphoria when you spot a bookstore; the distinctive smell you inhale when you walk in, either of old or new books; the shelves brimming with worlds untold; the call of the cover promising to be just the story you need… Let’s be honest: I still love books. But I need to stop using that honest enjoyment as an excuse to keep collecting books excessively.
Lately I started thinking about seriously downsizing my stuff quota to make it easier to move out eventually. Then, I got a sudden and (for me) quite foreign desire to go through my books and get rid of a bunch. Which is quite significant since I’ve been collecting for over ten years, justifying it to myself the whole time, convinced I would always feel the need to own so many books. And as I thought about this post and the fact that I should probably be spending my time doing homework for class tomorrow instead of blathering on about books and downsizing, the probable reason for this change in my thinking came to me: time.
How many times over the past year have I looked at my bookshelves in regret, wanting to reread this or that story and feeling sorry for myself since I don’t have time? How many times have I bemoaned the fact that my TBR shelf either stays stagnant or keeps growing instead of shrinking? How many times have I comforted myself with the thought that, come next break or the end of the school year, I will have time to read all the books I want to, but when said break comes I don’t read nearly as much as I thought I would?
The fact is, my third year in university has been the hardest and made me realise how valuable time is. And I want to spend most of mine in the physical world. Books have inspired me so much, but at times they’ve also provided an excuse to be lazy and complacent in my life, living vicariously through them instead. I am by no means swearing off books, but simply admitting both the good and the bad effect they have had on me.
To some people, I might still be considered to have an excessive amount of books, but I’m becoming more selective about the ones I keep. I don’t need the ones that I’ve debated keeping and decided in favour of simply through a dislike of getting rid of books. I don’t need all the ones that I’ve grown out of but kept because I used to love them. I don’t need to keep every book that’s by an author I really like if one or a few of them weren’t my favourites. Same with a series: if I liked book 1 but books 2 & 3 were letdowns, I don’t need to keep those two; I know the story.
Owning books is ultimately for yourself. I used to talk myself into buying or keeping books that I didn’t need to own because then I’d be able to lend it to someone if they ever wanted to read it. And how many of those books ever travelled away from my bookshelf except for briefly when I rearranged or cleaned? Yes, I’ve lent some books over the years, but you know what else is good for that? A library. If I ever feel the desperate need to access a book I’ve gotten rid of, I can go to a library–and so can the hypothetical person I was planning on lending it to.
So I want to save my shelves for the best for me–the books I love best, and the antique treasures and unique copies that are irreplaceable–the ones that are still contenders for my precious time. I still need stories, I still need to escape this world sometimes–but when I do, I should be using the books that give me the most in return. Because I don’t have time for the books I don’t enjoy coming back to again and again. Maybe those books are for someone else out there.