Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Can I have too many books?

I have thousands of books. I've got eight bookcases overflowing with books and I have books lined up across the top of all eight. I fill paperback shelves two books deep and top to bottom. And I'm still buying books.
This isn't really a problem. I love having books around, I love having many choices when I want to read something. But lately, a fear has gripped me. Can I possibly read all the books in my collection, let alone all the new books and old classics I don't own that I want to read?
The fear hit me recently when I started reading "The Sunlight Dialogues," a nearly 800-page book by John Gardner. As much as I like a book like this, there is a dread I have when I first pick up these large tomes. How long is this going to take me? How many short novels, never mind short stories, could I have read in the time it takes me to read this book? Eventually I get over it, but it's got me thinking about all these novels around me.
The other reason for this anxiety, as I get older I find myself wanting to re-read books. For many years, I just read through one book after another, never turning back. Now I read and enjoy books more slowly and I appreciate the good ones more. I want to spend time with books I consider classics. But it's hard to do that when there's five books my girlfriend gave me for my birthday to read. And five more books I didn't read from my Christmas presents. Plus there's a new Jeffrey Ford novel on the way. And I just got "Spin."
And sometime in the near future, I'll be moving. Do I want to lug all these books around with me?
Sooner or later, I'll recover from this fear and realize it doesn't matter if I read all these books. And if I want to re-read something, go ahead. Everything will happen in its own good time.
In the meantime, I look longingly at all the books I want to read...

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