My wife thinks so.
She constantly bemoans the growing collection that cannibalises the hallway of our home. With every delivery I’m greeted with the same tones of derision, ‘another bloody book, one day you’ll get home from work and they will all be gone’.
Maybe, but at least ill have read them all.
And that strikes at the empirical fact of the matter: yes and no.
I love reading, the consumption and exploration of knowledge somebody else has deemed so valuable they had to share fascinates and consumes more of my time than any other single endeavour. I could read forever and experience the hours flowing like seconds as each word simultaneously makes me question my currently reality and form new hypothesis.
My wife simply sees them as an eyesore and a waste of space.
And they are, but they aren’t.
I don’t physically need the books. Like my music collection, I could have migrated my collection entirely to a kindle or my iPhone a long time ago. There is no practical reason that I must buy more books and store them on shelves that are already over flowing.
But I do and I always will. While my wife will never see the value or understand.
I crave the familiar feeling of my fingers on the grain of page and the unmistakable feeling of progress as the thickness in my right hands transfers to the left as I progress through each book.
I could never buy too many books.
They are a defining element of who I am, and I borrow, alter and reframe elements of each in order to mould myself to become more efficient, happy and intelligent. They offer a window into the past while enabling my foresight to invent the future. They give me a historical overview of development and feed my imagination.
My wife can’t stand them.
She’ll never appreciate the subtle idiosyncrasies of Shakespeare’s prose, the philosophical musings of Plato or the genesis of modern living as characterised by Machiavelli’s the prince.
Maybe then the answer is that it doesn’t matter.
That it depends entirely on your intentions and what you want to achieve from ownership of books. If your goal is the ascertainment of knowledge you can never have too many books. Each offers a fresh opportunity for self-improvement and the expansion of what you know.
If it is to always have something to burn in the event that there is a nuclear holocaust and you envision them as a simple fuel source then you could equally never have enough books.
Alternatively, if you hate reading, see no value in the exercise and have no use for the physical product then a single book can be too much.
If you love the act of reading an infinite supply of books would never satisfy your appetite.
Ultimately it boils down to something I read this morning:
Human life has absolutely no meaning. Humans are the outcome of blind evolutionary process without a goal or purpose.
Hence any reason that we ascribe to our lives is a delusion.
Therefore, happiness is about synchronising’s our delusions with our actions.
You can thank Yuval Harari so such pleasant narrative, but it offers much a captivating insight into why there is no right answer. Why both I and my wife can both be right in our stances.
And books matter to me. I read therefore I am.
My wife doesn’t and thinks I’m an idiot exorbitantly relinquishing our ‘wealth’ in exchange for the collections of thousands of words on paper. ‘Why do you care how people lived 100,000 years ago, you can’t even use the modern conveniences we have now!’.
And she criticises me when I spend time reading, ‘All you do is read’ she bemoans as she consumes the latest offering of a mindless boxset, reality TV show or drama.
Of course, she is completely right, as is her prerogative.
But that doesn’t make me wrong.
In the same way that I’ll never be able to keep up with the Kardashians, she’ll never understand what it feels like to fall down the rabbit hole of a new book. So as she fixates her attention of Kim and Kendall discussing world politics I focus mine on an arbitrary collection of words in the pursuit of enlightenment.
And books are that portal to a new world, a new way of thinking and fresh perspective.
They can teach and heal, they can inspire and amaze.
Or if you’re my wife they make an excellent doorstop.
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