Buying Too Many Books

Too many books? Nah, no such thing.

I love buying books. I love going to bookstores and I whiling away the time with online wanderings trying to find something resembling a common thread between the books I’ve read and liked and the books that I want to buy from

This Publisher’s Weekly article (“The Wonderful and Terrible Habit of Buying Too Many Books”) may have struck a chord with me —

“There are just too many books to read. And while one might make the very good point that you could just wait to buy them when you have more room, there’s something about putting them in a row with other books, read and unread, that creates the cumulative impression of your reading self. Because, when it comes to reading, there will always be more book[s] that you haven’t read than books that you have, and your reading ambition will always be more important than your reading accomplishments. “The most profound enchantment for the collector is the locking of individual items within a magic circle in which they are fixed as the final thrill, the thrill of acquisition, passes over them,” wrote Benjamin. “Everything remembered and thought, everything conscious, becomes the pedestal, the frame, the base, the lock of his property.”

A library of mostly unread books is far more inspiring than a library of books already read. There’s nothing more exciting than finishing a book, and walking over to your shelves to figure out what you’re going to read next.”

The books we’ve read and the books we’ve yet to read say something about ourselves. What that something is, who knows. Maybe those unread books are the promise to ourselves of time well-spent at some point in the future. Maybe they represent ourselves at a certain moment in time, with interests that we’ve outgrown or have outgrown us.

And speaking of Walter Benjamin, we book hoarders can take inspiration from “Unpacking My Library” —

“…ownership is the most intimate relationship that one can have to objects. Not that they come alive in him; it is he who lives in them. So I have erected one of his dwellings, with books as the building stones, before you, and now he is going to disappear inside, as is only fitting.”

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By the way, the GoodReads group, “Book Buying Addicts Anonymous” has 1122 members.


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I run the ThinkLab at the University of Cambridge, and research digital habits, productivity, and wellbeing.

tyler shores cambridge

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