18-Feb-2011

A Tale of too many books

Every book lover has a dream scenario. It is usually a variation of the same theme – rows upon rows of books lined up against walls. My variation includes the grouping of books by categories, the shelves being painted white, and a sunny, comfortable window seat in a room ready for me to recline and read.

My reality had a tiny, wooden, open bookshelf that had long ago reached maximum capacity. Books were lined up two deep to begin with. Then they were wedged a little tighter together. Then two piles began to grow on the topmost rows to such levels that they could have qualified for a circus balancing act. Finally books were just tucked into any space that could be spotted.

Just as the number of books began to increase and overwhelm the shelf, my mood began to get sourer and sourer. This was a bit puzzling because I have always loved owning all those books. Then I realized that I now hated the fact that I just could not find anything to read in the mess.

I had earlier made a modest attempt at trimming my collection. I made a solid set of rules about which books were to be culled (pirated books, books never to be reread, books never to be read and so on and so forth). Of course, I had also decided to exercise some judicious discretion. Much discretion later, I had about eight books I was ready to throw away.

Then I had set my sights on a larger bookshelf – a lovely wooden structure with glass doors that would provide a large and loving home to our books while keeping the dust out. Scouring the likes of Lifestyle, I realized that such a shelf in a decent budget was as close to reality as Santa Claus.

Thus, one fine evening, I finally took a hard decision (Had I been in B.R.Chopra’s Mahabharata, thunder would have sounded and lighting would have flashed). I would put away some books in the cupboard, abandoning my long-held philosophy that books are meant to be displayed.

The division was done in a simplistic and non-emotional manner. Books I was yet to read were kept in the bookshelf. The rest went in. No tears were shed over the fact that ‘To Kill a Mockingbirdwould be left huddled in a dark space.

When the task was done, I was a bit shocked to see that practically one-third of my books had never been read/ completed. I had not quite realized that I had a veritable bookshop of my own. I mentally decided to go easy on buying books till I had made a reasonable dent into this one.

The decision has been successful in the last three weeks it has been operational. My very first book, a long ignored copy of Bill Bryson’s ‘Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid’ was a wonderful read.

I have also noticed that it is handy to be able to see books I usually just dip into, like comics or books of essays or of poems.

Unfortunately, my resolution not to buy books for a while has already been broken. A couple of days ago I spotted Jose Saramago’s The Elephant’s Journey, read a few pages, fell in love with it and bought it.

Evidently, good intentions and a temporary reorganization are not going to solve my storage problems.

Much thought later, I have made more easy-to-stick-to resolutions
- Popular reads I am unlikely to want to own, will be borrowed from Librarywala.com
- More active exchange of books with friends considering most of them are prolific readers themselves
- Try and begin reading on my brand new IPad (hurrah to D for getting me one!) so that I atleast stop buying physical books

But then these are for some other day.

For now, I am just content knowing I can finish a book in the middle of the night, walk up to my bookshelf, examine the unread titles without setting off a minor avalanche and then snuggle right back with a brand new book.

1 comment:

Archana said...

O boy, am sorely missing the Santa Clara city library - it was my dream chill-out place! I could actually feel the happy endorphins rush into my head everytime I looked at those rows and rows of books. Not to mention, the comfy couches facing a green, sunlit park!

Wish I lived in Mumbai - I could have used your neat collection as my library!

Tell me about collecting books and not wanting to part with them! It almost broke my heart to ruthlessly donate about 4 boxes filled with books when we moved :-(.