The Joy of Unread Books

| 5/13/2010 10:02:21 AM


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?

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.

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 :-)

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