The misconception of a home library

One of my dreams was to have a home library. All my favourite books lined up on a shelf, stretching from floor to ceiling. A complete wall of books in a room, with sunshine streaming in.

But now, I have given up on that dream. I no more wish a wall filled with books. And you know why?

It is a fake dream. That is what I never wanted.

The whole point of a book is to read and then learn and share. But it seems, the consumerist culture is dragging us in a different direction. We buy books and keep them for years hoping that someday we will read them. Or after reading them, we keep them on our bookshelves. And then we buy more. Isn’t the book better off being circulated among people who will read and appreciate it? And if not that, then at least being recycled?

My solution? No, not to reduce my reading. But instead to follow a more sustainable model.

Borrowing. Renting. If buying, then taking quick decisions on whether to read or not. And after reading, whether to keep or not. Swapping books with others. And do you remember my previous attempt with clothes? Yes, I am doing the same with books. I am giving them away, whether to friends and relatives or to libraries and second-hand bookshops.

I have no idea if I will able to cut down to just a handful of books or so. But the verb “reading” is now definitely more important to me than the noun “books” or “bookshelf”.

I still wish to have the room with the sunshine streaming in. But the stagnating infrastructure? The books and the bookshelf? No, thanks.

The free space, the openness. That is now my cup of tea. 🙂


8 thoughts on “The misconception of a home library

  1. What you wrote may be true for you, but I don’t like how you make you make it sound like your opinion is the “one true way”. I have not “been made to believe” to want a home library, I WANT one.

    Why? Because I like books. Not just the content, but the object itself. I love to have books that interest me right at hand whenever I get the whim to read them. I treasure my favourite books and actually reread them from time to time.
    Seeing my favourite books lined on my shelves, remembering all the great stories makes me happy every time I just look at them.

    I love buying and collecting books. True, I don’t read most of them right away. Sometimes they stand on the shelf for years gathering dust, but I never buy a book I don’t plan to read. I decide by (ever-changing) mood which book to pick from my shelves, so I appreciate having a selection of unread ones to choose from.
    It might take a while, but I work my way through them.
    The books I dislike I usually donate or sell. The ones I like I keep. And the ones I really, really like I recommend and lend to my friends.

    So please tell me, what’s so wrong about that?


    1. Thanks for the comment. I agree, I myself would never follow or believe anyone unless I try it on my own. This is more of a purely personal experience – in the last few months, giving off my huge collection of treasured books has given me more pleasure than holding on. To each his/her own.


  2. I saw your post because of a Tim Spalding retweet on Twitter. I used to have a home library. Many beautiful book shelves full of wonderful books, only a handful of which I would read more than once. Then, one day on LibraryThing, I saw that you could see where your collection fell in the grand scheme of things. Yeah, in order for me to break into the top 500, I would have to more than double the size of my collection. That gave me pause for much thought. Why was I holding onto all these books that weren’t getting read by anyone? What did they symbolize to me?
    I still have a number of bookshelves (four), but less than a third of what I used to. I took all my children’s books into school and put them either into my library or gave them to the upper school libraries where they circulate or were given to children to enjoy. My adult books, I put in a swap sale for my school where I know they were bought and read and enjoyed and passed on. The cookery books I didn’t use I passed on to friends who fed and feed me. (talk about a win/win!)
    Mostly, I buy books on my kindle, now, and if I love it so much, I buy a print copy. I don’t feel the need to possess and hold on like I used to.


  3. While I certainly respect your opinion on what to do with your books, keep in mind that lots of people enjoy collecting books in addition to reading them. Book collecting and book reading are two different (albeit heavily-overlapping) hobbies. I like to collect books (and read them!), just like people like to collect stamps, LPs, what have you.


  4. How true, books at home collect dust though once in a while one wants to look up a crucial passage in an old favourite.Sharing with others is a joy and then oh how much fun it is to discuss and argue away!


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