I love buying books but I don’t like reading. Am I a hoarder?
I came across that question in an online forum this morning. My first reaction was to respond, “Of course you are!” – which, by the way, was how most people had responded. Yet as the question soaked in a bit more, my attitude evolved.
Let me start by telling you that my wife and I are huge library patrons now; we seldom buy books to read. However, this hasn’t always been true and as I pondered my book-buying past, I remembered many times when I carried an armful of books to the cash register of a bookstore knowing full well that I was unlikely to ever read them all.
But I wanted to have them.
Further, I clearly remember my reticence when I’ve been forced to part with books. It is getting easier now, but when I was younger I had a hard time convincing myself that I needed to unburden my home of various books I was forced to read in college.
Having books around is like having friends nearby. You might not engage them in conversation, but just sensing their availability is comforting. They almost become an extension of oneself.
We made a major move from Northern California to Nashville several years ago and that forced us to sell a huge number of books we had collected over the years. However, if you were to peek into the cabinets in our second bedroom today, you would find some shelves stacked with books we deemed too precious to abandon.
In some cases, I convinced myself that I would be coming back to a certain book for information at a later date; for the most part this never happened and it’s been more than seven years. But when I look at those books now, I realize that they contained information or writing that I judged to be too important to leave behind, whether or not I ever opened them again; I simply needed to keep those books in my life.
I think that many of us have an “inner librarian.” We see ourselves as keepers of important thoughts, ideas and writing. Releasing into the wild books that we have taken the care of collecting over the years goes contrary to our nature. We continue to mourn the destruction of the library at Alexandria and to divest ourselves of our collection would, in some small way, be replicating that horrific event.
So to answer the question originally posed. No, you aren’t a hoarder. You can hoard kitchen gadgets and pseudo-collectible ceramic figurines, but not books. You’re a keeper of books and it’s a noble calling.