I’m not just a certified bookworm.
I’m afraid I’m a bookwyrm, too.
Which is just a nice way of saying book-hoarder.
I can’t even say I’m letting you in on a secret, because honestly? All my friends and family know it. It’s hard to disguise an ever-growing collection of books as anything else, especially when it begins overflowing the bookshelf space and piling up across your room in stacks and mounds of paperbacks. In my defense, I pick up a lot of books at thriftstores and used book shops, and actually rarely buy a book new unless I’ve read it or am quite sure I’ll love it.
I’ve seen many readers advocating minimalism. Only keep your absolute favorite books, the ones that absolutely deserve space in your home. Read, love, store that story away in your treasure-chest of memories, and pass the book on for someone else to enjoy. I actually agree with these sentiments. They’re wonderful ideas! They just… don’t work for me. For one thing, I have a librarian’s instinct. Every book deserves space in my home (well, a lot of them, anyway). A second factor is that even in this digital age, I am all for analogue. I much prefer having the physical copy, and being surrounded by the rows upon rows of shelves at the library is calming. The tall stacks at the library have always felt like home, and bringing that comfort into my house is the most natural thing possible.
And… yes, fine, I do have a true hoarder’s instincts. But what if I want to read the book again? What if I can’t find it when I want it? Just one more book won’t take up much space…
So which one is better? Like I said, I think minimalist sentiments are great, if they work for you. (This is assuming that you live somewhere with reasonable access to books, and the book in question isn’t an extremely rare out-of-print edition. Mitigating factors apply.) It’s one of those subjective questions that don’t actually make any sense.
And how many books you own isn’t actually the main question. Have you read all the books you own? Are you actually going to reread all of them eventually? Do you go to the used book store with specific titles in mind, and come home with those books and no others? Do you have any of those ‘I-know-I’ll-never-read-this-again-but-there’s-room-anyway” books?
If you answered no to any of the first three questions, or yes to the last… you may be a bookwyrm.
This is a momentous occasion, because it’s one of the few times in the history of the universe that I have differed drastically from Bernadette.
I am the polar opposite of a book-hoarder. I have perhaps 3 or 4 shelves of books that belong only to me, and I have read all of them. If I go to used book stores, I go with a specific list of books and if I don’t find the ones I want, I leave (without merchandise and avoiding the eyes of the manager).
I very, very rarely buy books that I haven’t read. That concept is totally foreign to me. My philosophy is: why waste your money on something you might not like? And then you’d be stuck with it! You can’t just quietly ship it off to the library and wipe it’s existence from your memory. Oh, no. Now it will sit accusingly on your shelf, and when people walk in and look askance at ‘that kind of book’ you can’t defend it in vehement terms, because you had no good reason for getting it in the first place!
My practice generally goes something like this: get Bernadette to read the book and tell me if she likes it; get it from the library and see if I like it; and then ask for it as a Christmas/Birthday present. (Or ask for an Amazon gift card. Same thing.)
And when I get books, I try to get hardback. Because if you’re going to spend money on a book that you love, you might as well spend a lot of money.
Can we think of a cool name for someone who’s the opposite of a bookwyrm? (bookslug?)
Whoops. I didn’t exactly mean to steal the term ‘bookwyrm’… I was just thinking, you know, dragons hoard treasure and bookwyrms are either book dragons or us human-book-dragons, so. It may not be quite fair to keep it to the collectors, cause really, many readers can fall under the human-book-dragon designation. (Does that make sense? It’s making sense in my head, but… maybe you’re just looking askance at this new-coined description.)
And it really is funny that that’s you in a bookstore (and explains a few library trips that confused me long ago), because I was just using that as the opposite of me. I cannot go into a used bookstore and come out without a stack five to ten high of random books – it all depends on how big the store is and how much money I have.
You may think I’m kidding, but last time I was in a big-ish used book store I got in trouble because I calculated out exactly how much I could get with the cash in my pocket, and forgot about tax.
But as a sort of book-minimalist, what’s your take on books you can’t get hold of? Do you buy books you haven’t read if you a) really really want to read them and b) they’re not at the library?
<Ah, we come to the world of books-that-have-been-self-published-for-some-reason-so-no-one-can-get-them.
(Bernadette: *cough* *pointedly not looking at Rachel Aaron*)
Firstly, I’ll look for an inter-library loan. Even if you have to order it from an out-of-state library, and you have to pay shipping fees, I still consider it a lot better than actually buying the book.
Secondly, I’ve discovered that my library has a page on it’s website where you can request that they buy books. Then if they decide to, they’ll put it on hold for you when it comes. (This is a revolutionary system, and everyone should do it. I promise, it will change the world.)
But if all avenues fail me, and life is devoid of meaning, and the sun is dark in my eyes, I will do one of two things.
I will attempt to convince myself that I really don’t need this book, and that I can live without it and it’s not a big deal.
When that fails, I will run to my room, dig out my Amazon gift card from last Christmas, and buy the hardback version from some random bookseller.
(Although, I try to avoid doing that. I’ve been burned way too many times by books that I’ve spent money on and then disliked excessively. Never again. Probably.)
Welp, there you go. Two ends of the spectrum to compare yourself to. Which one are you? Hoarder, minimalist or one of those astonishing sensible people in the middle? Tell us in the comments.