Hoarding: October 14, 2008

When I was in my late teens/early 20s, I didn’t have a lot of money. In fact, when I was 21, I had $5 left in my pocket after I’d paid all my bills (rent, heat, electricity, phone, etc.). I didn’t have a lot of money to spend on books, and I didn’t drive, so going to the library wasn’t an option. That meant I was limited to the dozen or so books I owned. Thankfully, they were fat books and I’ve always been someone who re-reads, so it wasn’t as awful as it could have been.

But, still, I think it’s had a long-term effect on me: I hoard books. I have — and this is not an exaggeration — hundreds of unread books in my house. You would think that would hold me over for a few years, but I keep buying new ones, and I keep checking books out from the library. It’s reaching the point where even I think I’m a loon — the books are taking over my bedroom and my office. They’re piled everywhere.

Today, I went to the library to return a bunch of books and pick up the one book I had on hold. (The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family by Annette Gordon-Read, in case you were wondering.) I came out of there with six. And then tonight, I went to Borders to pick up a book I’d had held. I probably won’t read all the library books I have out (33) because I’ll run out of time before I’m in the mood for some of them, and I probably won’t read the book I bought tonight for weeks, if not months.

And in the meantime, I’ll have bought more books and borrowed more books, because you can never have too many. Sometimes I think I’m kind of like those people who lived through the Great Depression, who hoard ungodly amounts of food because they remember what it was like to be hungry. I hoard books because I remember what it was like not to have anything new to read. (It’s not that much of a stretch, really. I might be able to live, physically, without books, but I won’t be sane.)

That’s the theory, anyway.

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