I belong to the Subculture of the Book. In my culture, books are not just containers for words, they are prizes, trophies, and they come with bragging rights. I have had whole conversations with friends about how many books we own, how many new bookshelves we’ve had to buy; the problem of trying to squeeze one more bookshelf into a small house or apartment; how many individual volumes we own and whether they’re double stacked on those shelves. We bemoan the difficulties of book storage and management in that particular way that is really kind of closer to bragging than actual regret. And we always buy more books. The size of your To Be Read pile is a big part of the Subculture of the Book.
Ebooks have not changed any of this. That may be because I hang out with fellow geezers, but there you have it.
The Big Book is emblamatic of my culture. I did buy it because I was curious about the contents. But I also bought it simply because it was big and beautiful and I wanted it. Some people do this with shoes or cars. I do it with books. And clothes. But mostly books.
Lately, though, I’ve begun to question the subculture of the Book, and I hate to say, it’s in part because of the Big Book. It’s turned out to be a good book. There are parts of it that are really brilliant. But like I said in my previous post, this Big Book sat on my shelf for years, and it had plenty of company. That shelf? Let me show it to you. It’s six feet tall, four broad and it’s stuffed with books I haven’t read. And I keep buying more and piling them in. I mean there’s a TBR pile and there’s hoarding. If books were cats, the neighbors would have called the humane society by now.
A few years ago, I tried be systematic about things. I was going to start at the top left of the shelf and read every book in order. I mean, I bought them, right? I bought them because I wanted to read them, not just own them right? What is the point of a book you don’t read?
That effort, I confess failed miserably. So, there it sat, big and beautiful and completely unread, with all those other beautiful, unread books.
Books are a good thing. You can never have too many, right? This is practically the motto of the subculture of the Book. And yet…and I ask this seriously…what is the point of having more than you can read?
Has counting coup and the luxury of ownership become more important to me than the stories?