Saturday, October 30, 2004

Accumulating Books

Here is an article, "My Own Private Library," by Thomas H. Benton that expresses the love of accumulation of books better than I have read before. Here are some quotes:

"I wonder whether I am afflicted with something more than a 'gentle madness' ... You see, I spend more on books than I do on food ... In my home office I estimate there are more than 2000 books on the shelves and another 300 in a pile on the floor ... There are about 50 books on a shelf next to my bed. Those the ones I intend to read soon ... I troll eBay and, looking to fill the gaps in my collections ... Just as it did in graduate school, book collecting alows me to take a vacation from my scholarly writing without feelings of guilt ... Book-collecting academics are often expert procrastinators ... Perhaps my book acquisitions reflect some psychological disorder, an unresolved trauma of my youth. [But] maybe my behavior is no different from adults who collect Matchbox cars, teddy bears, or baseball cards."

Very nice article. I have lately been phrasing the habit as "book accumulation rather than book collecting because I can't possibly read all the books I buy." My collection is nowhere near as large as Benton's and probably never will be. But I have the (mis)fortune to live near Daedalus Books, which is a remainders store and which has a superlative buyer. Very few shovel-ware books, which is what I term biographies of Princess Diana, crossword puzzle books, and romance novels. They sell them of course, but the vast majority of the store contains serious books mean to be read by serious people and I nearly always come away with five or ten new hardcover books bought for an average of $5 or $10 apiece. And, being in the Washington, D.C. area, there are a number of good used book stores. Since I found Daedalus, I don't browse Second Story Books as often as I did, say, Half Price Books while at college in Austin.

It's nice to know that others have this joy of being surrounded by books full of interesting ideas at all times, waiting and available for me. No, I can't take them with me when I die of old age, but I'm going to hang on to them while I'm here and hopefully something similar will be available in the next life.

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