Why You Should Be OK with Owning More Books than You’ll Ever Read

Several years ago, Kevin Dickinson wrote an article for the website BigThink about why owning more books than a person could possibly read over his/her lifetime is A Good Thing.

Turns out there are several plausible justifications, not just one.

One of the things I learned from reading Dickinson’s article was the origin of a Japanese term that surfaces periodically in various bookish blogs I follow.

Tsundoku is the Japanese word for the stack(s) of books you’ve purchased but haven’t read. Its morphology combines tsunde-oku (letting things pile up) and dukosho (reading books).

Dickinson mentions this term only in passing; you may want to read his entire article, which, incidentally, includes links to other, related articles.


YouTubes for Booklovers!

My brother Michael has long believed there’s a YouTube video for every conceivable unfamiliar task you might want to accomplish, and so far his advice to seek out a YouTube for any of the do-it-yourself projects I’ve reluctantly undertaken has proven useful.

What I didn’t realize until today was that the YouTube universe is also a source of delight (as well as for instruction) for booklovers! I discovered this while catching up on the some recent blogposts of one of my favorite fellow biblioblogers, Thomas Otto at Hogglestock.

During the COVID pandemic lockdown, Thomas Otto and his partner John (who live in Washington, DC) spent some of their screen-gazing time trawling through YouTube videos featuring tours of people’s home libraries. As Thomas warns, library tour videos, like those about almost every subject, constitute a very deep Interenet rabbit hole, so you may find exploring this area of the Internet (a) unexpectedly time-consuming (although these videos tend to be rather short) and (b) unexpectedly addictive. The sheer variety of collection priorities, narrators’ voices, and the different looks of these home libraries is what makes these videos addictive.

I look forward to using the sidebars of “related videos” from some of these tours to do my own version of this time-consuming, addictive – and delightful – peek into other people’s libraries. If you decide to merely partake of a single sample of these often querky excursions, you might start with this one that Thomas embedded in one of his library tour YouTube posts:

Personal Libraries: Pro and Con

In 2011, The New Yorker published James Woods’ lengthy complaint about having to dispose of his recently-deceased father-in-law’s enormous personal library. (Woods’ essay appears with others in his 2012 collection The Fun Stuff.)

In a blogpost written earlier this year, Nigel Beale, aka the Literary Tourist, takes issue with Woods’ cynical view of the value – and meaning – of (other people’s) largish personal libraries. Read Beale’s eloquent screed.

Julian Barnes Reflects on His Book-Loving Past

In support of Independent Booksellers Week, the British author Julian Barnes has written a lovely essay on the love of books and book-collecting, and The Guardian has published it.

Barnes begins his essay with these words:

“I have lived in books, for books, by and with books; in recent years, I have been fortunate enough to be able to live from books. And it was through books that I first realised there were other worlds beyond my own; first imagined what it might be like to be another person; first encountered that deeply intimate bond made when a writer’s voice gets inside a reader’s head.”

And he ends with:

“Reading and life are not separate but symbiotic. And for this serious task of imaginative discovery and self-discovery, there is and remains one perfect symbol: the printed book.”

Read Barnes’ entire essay, “My Life as a Bibliophile.” (And enjoy the 100+ readers’ comments, too, if you’d like. Not all of whom, by the way, agree with what they call Barnes’ “nostalgia” about the Printed Book.)

Found by librarian colleague (and habitual Guardian reader) Katharine Suttell

No More Printed Britannica

Most Americans have probably already learned that earlier this month Encyclopedia Britannica announced that the current printed edition of the encyclopedia will be the final one. Mr. Google will point you to a host of news articles and commentary (like this one from the blog of The New Yorker).

Britannica is neither the first nor the last familiar encyclopedia to abandon the codex for the computer. The rationale for digitizing time-sensitive reference works like encyclopedias is ever more irresistable, and it’s hard to argue with the sheer ecological argument of refusing to fell additional trees for subsequent editions of an encyclopedia that’s required numerous revisions since it was first published in (wait for it:) 1768.

Still, we felt it somehow necesssary to register here at the Booklover’s Blog this heartbreaking-if-inevitable turning point in the history of the book, if only because for many bibliophiles, perusing (in addition to referring to) Britannica is among the fondest memories of our early reading careers.

Britannica’s nostalgic value among readers (well, readers of a certain age, perhaps) is so strong that we predict that booklovers (and second-hand bookstore owners) are going to be snarfing them up from library book sales any time a public library divests itself of whatever edition it happens to own. (Lucky the booksale browser who stumbles upon a discarded set of the highly-regarded 11th (1911) edition!)

In any case, the death of the printed Britannica feel like another omen of the End of An Era (in this case, the Gutenberg one). Let us hope the marketing gods keep the licensing fees for the Britannica’s electronic versions within the range of public library budgets.

4/18/2012 Postscript: Britannica put together this nifty compilation of the media coverage of its announcement: