I acquire too many books. Always have, likely always will.
It started…well, back in the dim reaches of my childhood. I eagerly spent my entire allowance at Scholastic Book Fairs at school and bought Watermill Classics targeted to readers well above my age range. At thrift store trips, I loaded myself up with more books than I could carry. Regular visits to the school, public, and church libraries fed the mania because OH, THE BOOKS. I needed all of them. I needed them now. Otherwise, I might forget about one, and that might have been the one that would change my life or render me speechless with its eloquent language or salvage an otherwise awful day with the antics of its quirky characters.
I still feel that way.
It is madness and greed and passion. Book people get it. No one else does. I’ve had therapists look at me in utter perplexity and say, “If not buying books for a month would help you save up for X, why don’t you just not buy books for a month?” They don’t understand. It isn’t a matter of self-control; it’s much more primal and urgent. Nor is it a matter of disposable income; I have managed to feed my particular monkey no matter the state of my finances. (Off the top of my head, I can think of seven places in my small town where I can always find books for a dollar or less.)
I do try to get things under control from time to time. Among other reasons, I’m rapidly reaching critical mass in my apartment, which houses 26 bookcases. Even I realize that at some point, rearranging the furniture yet again to accommodate yet another bookcase crosses the line from endearingly quirky to…you know, borderline hoarding. Also, as my counselor pointed out, all these books find their way into my life because I actually want to read them. (Note: She and I might have slightly different views of my agency in that process. Mine is reflected in the way I wrote that sentence.) I’m not just getting shelf candy. And if I don’t slow down on the acquisitions, I’ll never have time to actually read them all.
My counselor encouraged me to think about why I buy books — because I want to read them, of course, but also: What needs is this fulfilling that aren’t being met in other ways?
And I realized that a major one is the need for spontaneity. I dislike routine, but I get into ruts pretty easily. And when surprises occur, they tend to be the unpleasant kind. Things go along in their staid, predictable way, and then something happens — my car needs an expensive repair, Rufus eats my lunch while I’m not looking and subsequently has diarrhea for a week, that sort of thing. Positive surprises are few and far between. But when I go on a book-buying mission, those odds go up because I never know what I’m going to find: what deals I’m going to unearth or which authors I’ll discover that I’d never have heard about otherwise. (After failing to grasp steampunk for my entire adult life, I met James Blaylock’s Langdon St. Ives at the Dollar Tree last month and now I’m in love.)
So…I think that realization settled it. For now, I’ll keep buying books because doing so brings delightful spontaneity that I’m not experiencing in other ways. If pleasant surprises start to show up in my life more frequently at some future date, then I’ll try going a month without acquiring books.
I mean, I can always double-stack my bookcases, right? Or just kick the cat off?