Too Many Books!

May 15, 2014

Bom·bard:  attack (a place or person) continuously with bombs, shells, or other missiles. Yes, I get all that, but books? Can a person be bombarded with books?

I just did a quick, rough walk-around survey of our house. Eight hardcovers on my night table. 25 or so books in the study that are recently purchased and not yet finished. (Some don’t have their spines cracked yet!) The new John Paul Stevens book, Six Amendments:  How and Why We Should Change the Constitution, arrived yesterday, and is sitting on the counter in the kitchen. I only opened the box tonight.

That’s the books in their traditional, physical incarnations. The Kindle has more than 15 books that I have started reading and want to finish, and that number ignores some of the books I’ve bought, started, and effectively discarded.

I admit, readily, that I’m dealing with a First World problem. I have a too much time on my hands and, instead of reading and writing, I’m looking for new, shiny objects. An account, a credit card, and Buy now with 1-Click has swamped my Kindle with books, and semi-regular reviews of my shopping cart at Amazon tell me I’m finding too many books that catch my eye. (Later, I seem to be cleaning out the account not by deleting the books but by, instead, buying them!)

I recall a time in my life when a book—and especially, a hardcover book—was a big deal. Not so much anymore, and more is the pity! I am familiar with the Amazon boycotts, the independent bookstore movement, etc., and I’m torn. Frankly, while I don’t like what I read about Amazon’s labor practices, and while I do worry about too much concentration in any industry, Amazon provides first rate, cheap services and an awesome inventory at dirt cheap prices. Hard to beat! That said, and in addition to the worries that motivate the boycott, I worry that by making the process of buying books so easy and so routine, the “special” has been lost. (I realized, just now, that I did not count the dozen or more cook books on a different set of shelves, mostly not really studied or used.) No one should have more than 60 books in process or on a waiting list. No one should be stressing about finishing what’s on his “plate” when it comes to books.

Suggestions? Comments? I am informally on a book-buying moratorium and am planning to more inventory what I have and develop a schedule, so if those suggestions come to mind, I’m there. And, in closing, I want to reiterate the fact that I really do appreciate the frivolous nature of my concerns. I’m probably just hoping someone, somewhere, will share with me that their books in process/waiting list total is 65 or more!

P.S. I will post the inventory when I get it done this weekend. It leans toward nonfiction, but I think it includes many good books!


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