Nov 17, 2017

Book hoarder's future

[Img Src:Imgur/Marcos] 
Two unrelated things I did last weekend got me thinking about the future of books. No, rest assured and read on, this is not a condescending lament about how the young generation does not read anymore.

The first was some decluttering that I did.

When it comes to my kitchen or the wardrobe or the shoe-rack, I am ruthless. If an item does not stand the test of some questions, out it goes. These questions range from the poetic ('does it invoke a spark of joy' a la Marie Kondo) to the efficient ('did I use it last year') to the realistic ('do I have any chance of ever fitting into that dress again'). Thanks to this excellent approach I have used the same amount of storage space all my adult life. That I have lived mostly in the tropics is surely a reason that the said space used is quite small. The other reason being I am an anti-social, lazy, introvert with  no sense of fashion and a blissful ignorance of what does not go with what.

So I breezed through clearing out all that stuff but got stuck with my bookshelf. There are no easy questions to formulate when it comes down to books. Each of the books brings a spark of joy - okay maybe not that unopened 'Half girlfriend,' but still ninety percent of them. On lazy Sundays, tired weekdays or even on a rushed morning, just a glance of a well-thumbed book brings me a spurt of energy and happiness.  'Did I read it last year?' is not really a fair question. And I am never able to or even want to honestly answer, 'Will I ever read it again?'  Who knows what I will get from re-reading the 'Tao of Physics' a decade from now. Or 'Half girlfriend' for that matter.

This problem is only with books. I had accumulated many audio and video cassettes and CDs over the years. Those, I was able to chuck without any qualm. I am more than happy with the abundant streaming choices I have in-lieu. Except for a few that I have placed in my living room as tongue-in-cheek showpieces, or a few that I have retained for sentimental reasons, I  gave them away without any compunction. 

The difference is when it comes to books, the tangibility matters to me. The rustle of the paper as I turn the pages and the smell of books old and new only enhance my reading experience. I prefer the contrast of a printed paper still.  Since I am wedded to the physical object,  the luxury and comfort of on-demand reading is not yet enough. So there, I have full justification to keep all my book until I cross over. 

I do think there is more to it though. It has to do with a certain middle-class unostentatious upbringing that frowns upon unfettered materialism and glorifies the pursuit of knowledge. While an extensive collection of shoes, in this world-view, is unequivocally vulgar, a shelf full of books is not. The latter is associated with the acquisition of knowledge and wisdom and is therefore appreciated. I suppose ultimately though it is vanity - elitist, internal yet eventually a display of a certain superiority.

Despite that introspection, as I type this I am horrified at this equivalency of shoes and books. And part of me is lining up a whole set of outraged responses as to why a collection of books is special.

Clearly, I am nowhere near giving away my books. 

November 17, 2017