There was a time in my life, a very long time actually, where I defined myself through my books. “I am what I read” could have been my motto. And I certainly looked at and sometimes judged others by their books.
You know what that leads to? Yes, being a book hoarder. My dream had always been a wall of books, and I certainly accomplished that.
It all started in my teens. During my adventures I ended up with a way older guy (at least mid-late 20s!), and somehow we ended up at the apartment of an even way older woman (late 30s?). It would take more than hypnosis for me to remember all the circumstances. But here we are in this woman’s apartment in Heidelberg, admiring her wall of books while she’s getting us some tea.
Admiring her collection, my friend says, “And I bet she’s read all of them.” To which I agreed and internalized that one day I would be that person. People would exclaim at my collection of books and admire me for them, because surely I’ve read them all.
Reality is not quite that glorious. Yes, we have a wall of books, and I’ve read most of them — and many more from the library and other sources. But the feeling I hoped to achieve never materialized. Add to that, having a wall of books I might have read but am in no mood to read again.
So here we are with all our treasures. I have switched to reading on my iPad, because I can do so at night without a reading light disturbing anyone. And no heavy books that drop on my face because I’m about to doze off, though an iPad in your face is not a minor incident either.
I remember the first book I ever read on the iPad: last volume in the Game of Thrones series. It was a library hardback and so, so heavy and awkward to hold and read in bed. Fed up after the third time it fell on my face (a good thing I wear glasses to read), I went online, downloaded it, and continued reading through the night.
I was fortunate to have so much leisure-reading time in my life, compared to Stephen who spent his legal career reading transcripts, briefs, and court opinions. He has a lot of catching up to do. Hence, we keep many books, but not all.
We meticulously sift through our collection — daring not to fondle them too long or read the back covers. We ask each other’s opinions and get in a dialogue about each book. And then, the inevitable: the book goes back to the shelves.
Interestingly, some books had actually made it all the way out front to a yard sale years ago but found no takers, and now we lay claim on them again as ours. How does that happen; are there prodigal books?
We don’t have one of those little libraries where you can take books or drop some off, but in front of our house are several boxes of books: help yourself. Until it rains or I change my mind; then they’ll go to the library.