Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Doesn't everyone want books?

Helene Hanff, 1916-1997 (photo from GoodReads)

And maybe the question should be, does anyone?

I recently commented on a book-related blog post, and out of approximately 27 comments, I think mine was the only one that did not say "love my e-reader, love the library, do not want books around the house unless they're cookbooks or something with an obvious purpose."

I understand the freedom of decluttering, the value of empty or near-empty spaces, especially in this often-overwhelming culture of much and more. In the novel In This House of Brede, the Benedictine nuns lived under a rule of simplicity, and the number of books each one could have in her own room depended on her needs
“I love inscriptions on flyleaves and notes in margins, I like the comradely sense of turning pages someone else turned, and reading passages someone long gone has called my attention to.” ― Helene Hanff84, Charing Cross Road
I do love my e-reader, Kindle app, and Overdrive. (Archive.org is what's giving me access to the vintage book that Afterthoughts is blogging through right now.) And the actual, physical library. I love books that have an obvious purpose. I also love books that do not have an obvious purpose.
“I do love secondhand books that open to the page some previous owner read oftenest. The day Hazlitt came he opened to "I hate to read new books," and I hollered "Comrade!" to whoever owned it before me.” ― Helene Hanff84, Charing Cross Road
One of the first times I ever got in real trouble as a preschooler was by disobeying a parental command not to take a certain book outside. But I wanted it with me...

I haven't come up with a one-line answer to this yet, but I do think the answer is a personal one (like the nuns), and it depends largely on what books do in your life, and what you do with them. I'll go so far as to agree that, for 26 out of 27 people (or maybe more like 20 out of 27), physical books are clutter. For whatever reason, they are just more weight to move, more things to dust, more stuff that people don't know how they acquired and why they're holding on to them. If that's the case, I agree wholeheartedly that it's time to move to library books and e-books. And if it comes down, as at least one commenter said, to having to move overseas or something where you do not have a choice, I agree also that books do weigh you down and that they should not hold you back from adventures. There will always be more books.

But for the other seven or so of the group...we are the spiritual grandchildren of Helene Hanff.
“I'll have mine [The Book-Lovers' Anthology] till the day I die - and die happy in the knowledge that I'm leaving it behind for someone else to love. I shall sprinkle pale pencil marks through it pointing out the best passages to some book-lover yet unborn.” ― Helene Hanff84, Charing Cross Road


Terra Heck said...

I agree that books can cause clutter and can cause a lot of weight, but I'm still one of those people that like owning physical book copies. I want an actual book in my hands. And I like having several books in my home to read in the future.

Silvia said...

I am another spiritual grandchild of the witty Helene Hanff.

I will be at lost without my friends.

Heather said...

Bring on the books! :)
Auntlie Leila reposted something that you would like if you haven't read it already. And also the article she links to is worth the read as well.


Mama Squirrel said...

Heather, thanks for the link! I am enjoying your string of comments--I will "visit back" soon.