Via, I ran across this blog post by Roger Ebert, who is apparently quite the award-winning blogger. I did not know. It’s all about his books; his many many, piled up to the ceiling, falling over one another, can’t possibly throw them away, treasures. I sense a kindred spirit. Says Ebert:

I cannot throw out these books. Some are protected because I have personally turned all their pages and read every word; they’re like little shrines to my past hours. Perhaps half were new when they came to my life, but most are used, and I remember where I found every one. The set of Kipling at the Book Nook on Green Street in Champaign. The scandalous The English Governess in a shady book store on the Left Bank in 1965 (Obilisk Press, $2, today $91). The Shaw plays from Cranford’s on Long Street in Cape Town, where Irving Freeman claimed he had a million books; it may not have been a figure of speech. Like an alcoholic trying to walk past a bar, you should see me trying to walk past a used book store.

I have always inspired hatred in those who helped me to move house because of the ridiculous number of books I have. Below is the current state of things, which for me, is drastically pared down, since I have changed flats about 8 times in the past 6 years,(and came to Spain with, I believe, 2 books) and I do sell a significant amount of my books back to the book shop – probably about 3 or 4 for every 1 I’ve kept over the years.

Books1 Books3


The overflow on my night table.

I totally know what Ebert is talking about. A lot of these books are stories in themselves for me. My dog-eared edition of Moby Dick, given me by a friend I haven’t seen in ages and which carried me through a dark time last year (I know, it doesn’t make sense that Moby Dick would do that, but I’m weird that way). I have a cute little volume of poetry that I stole from my high school library (me and my high school had a love hate relationship, so I felt fine about the theft at the time). Whitman’s Leaves of Grass is even more beautiful somehow now that it’s pages are all warped and stained because one year, when we were on vacation, the water tank burst, and I happened to have left it in the bathroom. (Yes, as toilet reading.) My dad’s copy of Beryl Markham’s West With the Night brings me a little bit of home and reminds me of him reading the stories to me as a child.

One of the thoughts currently panicking me is how I’m going to move all this when I go home to the States. I have 6 years of accumulated muck. Part of me wants to be all zen about it and toss away all my unnecessary possessions, so that I may feel some transcendent sense of lightness. But, on the other hand, They’re My BOOOKS!!! My babies!! Arrrrrgh. My brow furrows with worry.

Then there is another school of thought, which says that those of us with all these ridiculous tomes merely suffer from some egotistical obsession about asserting our personality through a wall of intellectual impressiveness. Quoth Seneca (my dude, btw, I recommend you all get to know him):

What is the point of having books and libraries beyond number if their owner can barely read through their titles in his lifetime? Such a vast collection does not instruct the learner but puts a burden on his back, and it is much better to give yourself up to a few authors than to wander through many.

He may go a little far in calling the lost library of Alexandria an example of “scholarly extravagance” but he is ever an advocate of moderation, summing it up with “you should procure as many books as are sufficient, but none merely for show.”

Ok, I can live with that, it leaves room for flexibility, my “sufficient” may be another person’s “absurd.”