At the end of a working week, I usually treat myself to a longed-for book or CD on eBay. I’ve just purchased a book on philosophy written by Lin Yutang.
The Importance of Livingwas going for about a tenner new as a paperback, but I was the only bidder on a used hardback copy published in 1947—probably because it’s in well-used condition with browned pages and a tatty cover. Such things don’t bother me: it’s the contents I’m after.
I like that the book shows its age. I wonder how may readers have eyed its pages, gleaning wisdom from the author’s thoughts. That’s something impossible to ponder with a Kindle or smartphone or tablet.
Should I ever get to heaven (I’m hellbound! ) it would be nice to think that parts of it smell of new books, while others pong of old volumes!
I’m looking forward to sniffing my latest purchase.
Do you like the aroma of freshly printed books and of those that are disintegrating?
There’s a word to describe everything. Sometimes the foreign version is more stylish than English—for instance, the French wordennuiliterallysounds sadder and more boring than listless or dissatisfied.
A few foreign expressions have crept into English in recent years, such ashygge—the Danish word for the feeling of genial comfort felt when sitting comfortably by the fire in the company of friends in winter. Hiraeth is a Welsh word for longing for your homeland or a romanticised past that only exists as a memory.
Collecting an abundance of books is termed bibliomania in English, but the Japanese expression tsundoku sounds less mad! A while ago, I wrote about how books can be friends and it’s hard to turn your back on a friend…even if you haven’t interacted with them for ages. As for newcomers picked up on a whim because of the attractive cover design or because you’ve been meaning to read that author, and you’ll get around to it one day, well, that’s how books start to pile up as all the shelf space is taken.
I’ve reached hoarding status with reading matter a few times in my life—moving home is a great way to reduce clutter—moving countries even better! When I emigrated to the USA in 2000, I gave away 500 books and about 2,000 magazines on classic cars and motorcycles, dating back to the 1970s. It was chastening to realise that had I saved the purchase price of them instead, I’d have been able to afford a decent Jaguar Mark 2.
Since then, I’ve kept an eye on how many books I hang on to. I give some away to friends or the charity shop, but the charity shop has had a special offer of 4 items for one pound this year, allowing a mix of CDs, paperbacks and DVDs. Inevitably, I’ve wound up with a pile of 50 books on my bedside table—they include recently published crime novels with uncracked spines from never being read—and what looks like a possibly dead reader’s favourite with yellowing pages and dedications when the book was given as a present thirty years ago.
Better that I read them (one day, honest) than they be pulped!
Do you take comfort from the presence of an excess of books?
Probably best not to say that “I’ve got huge piles….”