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The Joy of Unread Books

 

Book store shelves fisheye

“An unread book exists only in the primordial soup of your imagination, and there it can evolve into any story you like. An unread book—any unread book—could change your life.” So begins Kristy Logan’s essay for The Millions, Confined by Pages: The Joy of Unread Books.

It’s a beautifully expressed sentiment. And for Logan, it’s justification for the 800 unread books on her shelves. “Some would find this excessive, and they would probably be right,” she writes. “But I take comfort in knowing that I will have appropriate reading material whatever my mood, that I will be spoiled for choice whenever I want a book, and that I will never, ever run out of new stories.”

I'm reminded of something the essayist Gabriel Zaid once wrote: “The truly cultured are capable of owning thousands of unread books without losing their composure or their desire for more.” Responding to Zaid, the British writer Nick Hornby wrote: “That's me! And you, probably! That's us! … With each passing year, and with each whimsical purchase, our libraries become more and more able to articulate who we are, whether we read the books or not.”

What about you? Is there joy in the unread books on your shelves? Or is it all just noise?

Source: The Millions

Image by gadl, licensed under Creative Commons.

sandra w
5/20/2010 4:21:46 PM

Love the Zaid quote. Enough said.


susan h.
5/14/2010 10:41:24 PM

It's not just the books--it is the possibilities they represent. It is the opportunity to see the world from another viewpoint. It is the chance to see your own life from a different point of view. And, with my many, many craft and art books, they represent keys to different aspects of my own creativity.


carmel
5/14/2010 4:59:28 PM

I too have hundreds of unread books on my shelves, all of which I believed I simply had to have when I bought them. A large number are 'how to' art books and beautiful books of one kind or another. I rarely get around to using any of them, largely because I always have so many books out of the library. I've also accumulated a huge number of ebooks. I'm NOT composed about it, however. I consider it a form of addiction, like any other consumer addiction. Sometimes I panic at the thought that I can't possibly read them all before I die, and that those who are left behind won't appreciate them. I guess at least they'll then find their way to a thrift shop where someone else might make use of them, or take pleasure from having them on their shelves :-)


sandra_5
5/14/2010 1:55:50 PM

In my apartment, there are piles of books everywhere, shelved in a book case, piled on tables and against the walls. Books make me happy. Between me and my husband we've probably read half of our collection. Most of our collection are used books we found at yard sales and $1 bookstores. Our home is our library. I'm as solitary as a bobcat at times, and my books are my companions.


coquina deger
5/14/2010 12:20:37 PM

I take solace and pride in the Zaid quote here: “The truly cultured are capable of owning thousands of unread books without losing their composure or their desire for more.” I could say the same for tea, as well as books. Having a variety of each at your disposal to please the senses and the intellect at any given time -- that is quality of life to me.


tony_8
5/14/2010 10:28:49 AM

Help us to tell that to the politicians who want to crimp the New York Public Library ((http://dontclosethebook.nypl.org/)) $37 million in cuts; 10 branches to be shuttered; open only 4 days instead of 6, on top of already restricted hours; loss of programs and job search.


ellen keim
5/14/2010 10:04:17 AM

OMG! That's me. Only I don't own most of my unread books--I can't afford to. I get them from the library. Then if I love the book, I buy it, or if I can't find a book at any library. Typically I have 50 books out at a time. Sometimes they go back unread, but I have this compulsion to have them on hand IN CASE I want to read them. I can't imagine not having unread books at my disposal. Thank the Lord for libraries!


sandy rowan
5/14/2010 9:37:30 AM

I feel so validated from this article. I thought I was the only one who felt like this. Silly me!


joyce_2
5/14/2010 7:42:14 AM

I do not have a problem per se with a shelf of unread books. Certainly most avid readers have a stack of books they haven't read yet. However when it becomes hundreds of books I begin to wonder if a better use for them would be to provide books for others who can't afford them.


anna_6
5/14/2010 7:36:38 AM

Yes, that's me!!!! My husband and I having a running joke about why I buy books and never read them...currently have over 100 unread books on my shelves, and yes, I am still buying more!! The joy of unread books, indeed!


anna_7
5/14/2010 7:36:23 AM

Yes, that's me!!!! My husband and I having a running joke about why I buy books and never read them...currently have over 100 unread books on my shelves, and yes, I am still buying more!! The joy of unread books, indeed!