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Some people seem to go out of their way to find things to be angsty about. Take the raging conrtoversy over whether it’s right and proper to display books you haven’t read, with the counterpoint being that it is - because the vanity is justified and important.

There’s the obvious question in response to this dilemma: where else would you put them? I can’t help but wonder about the sanity and intellect of anyone whose book collection consists of a shelf full of books they’ve read and one - the one with the bookmark still in it - that they haven’t.

I’ve got three kinds of books around, aside from the ones I’ve read, which are more likely than not in a box buried in the store room. There’s books I will read - and I really mean it, these books get consumed at my house. Trust me, you open a new six pack of beer less often than I crack one of these open - or you probably can’t keep a job. Then there’s books that I’ll read someday, if I live long enough. They often start out on the “will read” shelf, but keep being pushed back as new arrivals take precedence. Then there’s the reference books. These tend to be out and accessible, simply because I never know when I’ll need them.

It’s hardly vanity. My “display” shelves are not what anyone would call picturesque, nor something you’d enjoy browsing through unless you’re nuts like I am. They’re in dusty corners of the house wherever they’ll fit, in whatever space technically allows access, even if it requires less than comfortable posture to realize it.

I have often brought home from a yard sale so many books that it takes several trips to the car to carry them all inside. All my pocket change goes into a bucket to be converted to books later via Coinstar and Amazon. I buy about three books for every book I will ever be able to read. I’ve seen smaller collections in some small-town public libraries. And even with that, I still regularly borrow books from friends.

But that’s the joy of it. I know they’re there when some day I’ll want just that one particular book that maybe ten years prior at a yard sale I thought “One day, that’s what I’m going to want to read about more than anything in the world”. Most of them are in storage, something I really regret. In fact, my fondest wish for a dream home is one in which I can put every one of them on a proper shelf in a room that is open and airy enough to actually enjoy browsing. And even though it’d be nice to have them all in some “public” area of the house - the easier to get at them when I need to - I wouldn’t care a bit if this room was locked up inaccessible and invisible to impressionable guests. Because here’s the thing… I’ve had them all out on shelves before, when I was briefly lucky enough to have enough floor space and little enough furniture to do so, and there’s nothing in the world like being in the mood for a certain kind of book without knowing for sure which one of my forgotten purchases will satisfy that craving, and having a library of thousands to browse through, just knowing the right book is in there somewhere.

If that’s vanity, it’s one I’m perfectly happy to enjoy privately and anonymously.


P.S, those books on the right, labelled "Currently Reading"? Well, I've been lax about keeping that up to date. Even when I'm conscientious about it, I've often finished one before I can get around to posting it there. I've probably read at least 25 books since those were put up there, and those were just the ones I read that week.


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