Friday, January 10, 2014

I’m a reading person, not a book person

And this epiphany came about thanks to Shruthi Rao.

(Aside: If you haven’t read her blog, do click on the link – she’s a fine writer and you won't regret it - especially if you're trying to raise a child, because she's a mom to emulate. If you HAVE read her blog, you know what I’m talking about.)

I used to be a book person, as in wanting to own every book I read (except the really unbearably bad ones). My dream is still to own a house that has a room whose walls are covered in shelving stuffed with books – but I’d be choosy about those books. Don’t get me wrong, it’s always the reading that has been important to me, not the owning (I’ve never bought a coffee-table book in my life, for instance)... but over the years the owning has taken much more of a back seat. That said, I do have a Kindle, so I do most of my buying off Amazon nowadays, and mainly books that are on offer.

So, anyway, wanting to own books is not a bad thing, but it is an impractical want for a voracious reader - unless that reader is lucky enough to own a very large mansion with plenty of storage. Not being that reader, rather than buy books, I borrow them from my local library and return them when I’m done. Actually, come to think of it, that’s pretty much how I feel about kids – I love ‘em and love playing with ‘em, but I don’t really want to own any... I like to return ‘em to wherever I borrowed them from. Nice analogy, don’t you think?

I’ve also discovered that I don’t really like huge chain bookstores, especially those that have diversified into other things like stationery, toys, gifts and so on which are also sold on the premises. I guess it’s their size that also puts me off – when I’m faced with too many books in a single location that’s the size of a football field, I kind of mentally come to a halt because of having too much choice. To put it another way, I don’t like large chunks of anything – books, vegetables, fruit, whatever. They have to come in manageable portions.

Libraries don’t seem to have that effect on me, possibly because I’m not under pressure to choose just one or two books from the huge selection available. Another reason is that if the book I choose from a library turn out to be boring or badly written, I can simply return them and take something else instead. That option, while possibly available at bookstores, is not exercisable if the books are found to be in a less than pristine condition on being brought back.

So, the only bookshops that I like nowadays are the small independent ones, particularly the second-hand bookstores that specialise in old books. Again, I’m not a collector of antique books – I can’t afford them, and anyway I wouldn’t want to own one just for the sake of owning it, much the same as I feel about coffee-table books. I just happen to adore looking at out-of-print books, the old fashioned bindings, the gold-edged pages, the dated writing style, the contents – I almost don’t care what the books are about, I just browse them anyway. Also, the pleasure that’s to be had from walking around tiny shops in old buildings (and by that I mean hundreds of years old) with creaking wooden floors, exploring the dusty old books stacked on the groaning shelves – well, while I don’t want to sound like a snob (while being one) I would still say that perhaps it’s not for everybody. I’m just glad there are good bookshops in and around Shrewsbury, and I’m aware of how lucky I am. 

1 comment:

Anu said...

Happy New Year!

I used to crave to collect books in my younger mean lean student days - but sadly couldn't afford them. Now I am like you now - just borrow books and return when I am done with them. My son is a book collector though - but he is selective.