Soooo…I’ve acquired almost 30 books this summer. This is probably the largest amount of books I’ve acquired in the shortest amount of time. (No, not all of them were purchased; about 1/3 were from a free book exchange at a park near my house–what do you think I am, made of money?) My LibraryThing catalog now has almost 600 books, and I still haven’t cataloged my mountain of children’s books. And I’ve probably only read about half of them because ever since I was a youngster walking through those Scholastic books fairs in elementary school (a.k.a. the best days of the year), I’ve been buying books way faster than I read them.
I’m not a very fast reader in general. Also, being an English major, I spend the majority of my reading time reading things that other people tell me to read, rather than books of my own choosing and interest. BUT I CAN’T STOP BUYING BOOKS. They are slowly overtaking my bedroom–I’ve long since used up all the space on my bookshelves–and now books are creeping out along the floor in piles until I fear there will soon be a complete take-over, and my roommate will have to use a flashlight to find me among the towering stacks and mazes of tomes in which I will become lost. Or, you know, I’ll just have to suck it up and buy another bookshelf.
Anyway, in my travels this summer I did a lot of thinking about what kind of traveler I am. I took a class on travel writing while I was in England and wrote a travel journal for it. I found myself writing a lot about what it must be like to live in the far-off places of the world. And curiously enough, thinking about travel made me realize why I am a compulsive, insatiable book-buyer. What pleases me so much about travel is possibility. I day-dream and imagine and put myself into the places I go and wonder about what life would be like if I lived here or there; I always look in the little nooks, crannies, and less-traveled paths while walking and exploring old places; I feel the urge to stray away from the group to explore places on my own and see what I can see, find what I can find. What’s so exhilarating about this is possibility: the possibility that there might be a staircase around the corner, or a beautiful view over the top of the next hill. My wanderlust translates nicely into why I can’t stop collecting books: it’s like collecting possibilities.
So my room is filled with unread books, but I like it that way. When it comes time to pick out a new one to read, it feels like I have lots of possibilities to be explored and lots of potential behind every cover. I almost enjoy the thrill of buying a new book more than the act of reading it, which is probably my problem. [“My name is Emily and it’s been 6 months since my last book-buying binge.”] But I figure book buying is a healthier and more productive addiction than
some most alternatives, and this way I’ll never run out of possibility; all the unread books that adorn my room make the space feel open, free, and always ready for new discoveries.