Thoughts on books, family, and life in one impressive package.

When I first started blogging almost two years ago, I had roughly ten unread books in my personal library of roughly 200 books. Every book I kept was one I had read and enjoyed. They were all personal friends. A year ago, I was hovering around 50 unread books. My personal library still contained around 200 books, but I felt like 50 was a manageable number. More importantly, I still felt like I was surrounded by old friends. Twelve months later, the number of unread books in my house is at 343. Yes, 343. What in the world happened?

My permanent library is smaller, at around 180 books, but it now contains the books I know without a doubt I want to keep forever because they are all books that have moved me in some way. This might include the book that contains my first literary crush or a book that took me three attempts to finally finish. They make me remember parts of who I used to be or even remind me of who I want to be. They are friends in a very real sense of the word.  So, who are these strangers that fill closets and every available shelf space in the house?

The thing is that I want to read all 343 books I have on hand. Yet, at that number, discerning which ones will make the cut for the permanent library is rather difficult. I still revel in the fact that I have my own personal library from which to choose something as the mood strikes. Unfortunately, I also become a little overwhelmed at the sheer number of them. I want to read them all, but I know that unless I quit my job and read full-time, stop buying/receiving books altogether, or learn to speed-read, it will be years before I get to them all.

This thought makes me very sad, for the special thing about each unread book is the promise each holds. They each whisper the possibility of some life-changing revelation or a story that is literally unforgettable. Given how quickly my unread pile exploded this year, I have to wonder if there is something seductive in this promise that makes book collecting almost compulsory. I know my home library is small compared to others. I know my unread pile is small compared to others. We all complain about never having enough time to finish all of the books we want to read, yet we all continue to add to our piles at rather disconcerting speeds. Why? Why not get through what we have? Why this incessant need to keep adding to the pile?

My friends laugh at me when I tell them, with the utmost sincerity, that I cannot walk into a bookstore and walk out empty-handed. It is physically impossible. It truly is an addiction. However, is an addiction to books a bad thing? I mean, I function perfectly well in public. Books do not prevent me from living life. I do not forgo social engagements to read. Friends and family come first and always have. So, is it really an addiction? Yet, why does this need to continue to add to the unread library still exist? Why can’t I walk into a bookstore without losing my senses?

Don’t get me wrong – I am not complaining at all. Over these last few years of blogging, I have been fortunate enough to have read some absolutely amazing books, ones I know I would have never picked up on my own. I love being a part of the publishing community and helping out authors. It gives me a sense of purpose and fulfillment that I never knew was missing until I found it. I guess my dissatisfaction is that I want to read more. I guess this is the age-old issue though, isn’t it? The more we have, the more we want. In this case, the more books we have, the more we wish time were on our side. As another year comes to a close, and we reach the time of year for reflection, time becomes that elusive entity we all wish we had more of and wish did not move so quickly. In the end, is our need for more books just our attempt to stop time?

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