Books Are Not Trophies
You shouldn't expect to read all the books you buy.
I love the Library of America imprint. They compile the works of great authors and wrap them in accessible, compact, and attractive editions.
When I’m on my periodic browsing trips to the used bookstore, if I ever see a compilation I don’t own yet, and it’s in good condition, I immediately grab it. Each one usually sets me back ten to fifteen dollars, which is a stupid deal. For the most part, I don’t even care who the author is. I know they will be someone worth reading or referencing. (I do a similar thing with the classics that Everyman’s Library puts out.)
So far, I’ve collected Robert Frost, Thomas Jefferson, Mark Twain, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Have I read all of these? No. Not even close. Have I read at least half of the content contained in these volumes? Again, no.
I will probably never read these collections in their entirety. Most of them aren’t included in any of my current reading plans, though that might change. They join an ever-growing group of books I own that I have not read, and if I continue to be blessed, that group will continue to outpace my reading habits.
Why is that? Why do I hope to have a library of books I have no hope of fully reading in my lifetime?
Because your personal library should not be a record of your literary conquests. Your bookshelves should not be a trophy case.
A library should be aspirational, always looking to the future. It is a valuable, one-of-a-kind reference and educational tool organized to your whims and desires. Eventually, it can be one of the most valuable gifts you provide to your children. If you mark up and write in your books, even better.
If your goal is an actual library, do not feel guilty about buying more books than you can read, especially if the books you are buying are those that will stand the test of time. The great thing about a long-term library full of Lindy books is that a book you read ten years ago, when you were a different person, has the potential to be a completely new book when you re-read it. A good library is a constantly renewable resource.
You are never really done reading a great book. They never settle down into being a mere trophy.
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