Ok, so we all love books. You wouldn’t be here reading if you didn’t. Of course no two readers are the same, but one difference I find intriguing is what we do with our books when we finish reading them. Some of y’all are definitely book collectors. I say y’all because I am not one of you.
What defines a collector of books? Well, someone that basically keeps everything they read. A person with a gigantic home library that likely doesn’t loan their books out for fear that those books will get worn, cracked spines, and dog eared pages. If you arrange your shelves by color, I bet you are a collector. If it pains you that someone would toss a book into a backpack without a sleeve? Collector. If you take the book jacket off when you read to avoid damaging it? Collector. If you would look at me crosseyed as I bend back the cover of my paperback book and read while drinking a cup of tea and eating a sticky bun? Yup….collector.
I don’t begrudge you, collecting friends. Your home libraries are lovely. They look beautiful and I want to sit in your reading nook and read all the things. But you probably don’t want me to. Because while I respect your choice to keep books pristine, I don’t share your collecting values.
Reading joy shared is reading joy multiplied. And the logical extension of that, for me, is passing along books when I finish them. I can rave all I want about books, but the likelihood my friend reads the book I adored increases some insane amount if I actually hand them the book. Getting rid of that barrier to entry helps me to spread reading joy. And that makes my heart happy.
Not only does this make my heart happy, it also stops my house from looking like an episode of Hoarders. I often wonder what volume the book collectors who claim to never pass books on actually read. I mean, can you imagine if Jae kept every single book she’s ever read? I shudder at the thought. Or maybe I giggle and imagine Jae just hiding in a tiny space with a blanket and a flashlight while surrounded on all sides by books.
I do tend to keep a very small collection of books I really REALLY loved and anticipate wanting to read again. I’d say that’s maybe four to five books a year. And the hilarious thing about that is that because these are favorites, I often end up loaning them out or giving them away too (in which case I inevitably re-buy only to give it away again). These are the only books I loan because usually when I hand a book over, I have zero expectations of getting it back. But with this tiny select group, I will alert the recipient that I’d love it if they’d return it.
Now I know this may make the collectors want to scream, but…I really don’t care what condition the book is in when a reader returns it. I adore well-worn copies, copies that have been read and loved and read and loved again. If a friend returns a book with a huge coffee stain on the cover, I laugh and each time I see it, I think of my friend and how they respected me enough to read a book I recommended. That brings the joy, folks. If a book gets gnawed on slightly by a dog before it is returned, I smile and tell my friend absolutely don’t worry about replacing the book. Seriously. This is how I feel. The scratches and dents, the creases and folds all tell me someone else enjoyed this book too. Again, this all brings me joy.
So, collectors, I just wanted to take a moment to share why I am who I am with my books. Every time I see a Facebook thread where people are chiming in about how awful it was that someone returned a book after dog-earing pages or spilling some drips of soup on the cover, I want you to understand my position. I will try hard not to think of you like Gollum, wringing your hands in front of your bookshelf whispering “my precious,” if you will try not to think of me as a barbarian who doesn’t respect books at all.
What are your rules for books? Are you a book collector or a book giver? Let me know in the comments!