This section is on the longer side, and it involves the question of why we buy books. Emily, I hope you don't mind that I used you as an example and referred to the Reading Like a Writer toilet story. 🙂
When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food
brother and I were wandering around Borders a few months ago trying to find
some books for my mom for Christmas.
Like the cliché mother, she loves Danielle Steele and had requested her
latest novel Amazing Grace. After ducking into the romance section unseen,
we found the requested book. It was
$27! My brother and I, both poor
students, looked at each other and immediately decided that $27 was too much to
pay for a book. I told him we could get
her a library card for free and she could get the book there.
Why do we buy books? I currently have four book shelves and hardly
any space left in them. My husband has
three in his apartment and they are even more jam-packed than mine. We own a lot of books. Sometimes I look at our collection and wonder
how much money we would have if we did not like to read. Then I stop wondering because I am afraid at
how big the number will actually be. We
like to read, but that does not necessarily mean that we have to own so many
books. We could get them from the library
or borrow them from friends. I am
embarrassed to say that before this summer, I did not have a library card. I got one when I was living in San Francisco because I
did not want to lug a bunch of books out there and back. And then when I returned home, I got one at
my local library. It saves me a little
money, but I still keep buying books.
might be a showing-off thing. Strand in New York allows you to
hire someone to design a library for you. You buy books by the foot. You can pick a theme, but they choose the
books. They are meant to look good, not
be read. The notion that you can
decorate a room with books is strange, but it shows that owning books does have
some showing-off factor. We could keep
our books in closets and bins under the bed, but instead we buy shelves
specifically made for them. I think
those of us that read a lot want people to know that fact. We want people to see that we are intelligent
people. That’s why the classics get the
best space while the books we may be a little embarrassed about are likely to
reason that we may buy books and display them is that when people see your
books they get a little glimpse into who you are. This is different from showing off. Instead of displaying books to show how smart
you are, you are displaying books to show what type of a person you are. The books you love will probably have the
most visible space and people will be drawn to them. Someone may display their collection of great
Russian novels to show that he is intelligent.
Someone else may present their religious books as a display of their
faith. Looking at a person’s book
collection gives you some idea of the kind of person they are, and the person
who stocked the shelf knows that. I have
books that I do not put on the shelf because I do not want others to think that
I am a type of person that I feel I am not.
For example, a few years ago I ended up reading the Left Behind
series. I am not a conservative
Christian and I would be appalled to be viewed as one so these books are safely
tucked away behind others.
we buy books so that we can own a little bit of something that we love. No one can really own a story (aside from
possibly the copyright holder) but we can own books. I have a friend who reads a lot of library
books but also ends up buying most of the ones that she likes. You can tell how good a book is by whether or
not she owns it. I think she likes
owning books purely to own something that she loves. I think a lot of us are like that. I like knowing that certain books are always
within reach. I can find a favorite book
or passage when I need it without leaving my home. It makes me happy to know that I can reread a
favorite book whenever I like. When I
love a book, I want to keep part of it with me always. We like keeping the things we love near us.
may also be that we buy books to keep from being lonely. When you are surrounded by books, it is hard
to feel alone. You can instantly be in
the company of Jo March or Mr. Darcy or Scout Finch. Not only are you surrounded by characters you
love, you are connected to everyone else who has ever read that book. You can read a book that someone recommended
to make you feel like you are with that person.
Or you can look at the inscription your grandfather wrote in a book
before he died. Above, I mention how we
read to escape, but we also read to feel like we are part of something. I feel at home among my books. I do not feel at home in a new place until I
have unpacked my books.
people buy books so that they can write notes in the margins. I have never been much of a margin-writer but
I always wanted to be. Occasionally,
when reading a book for a class or a book club discussion, I will write a few
things in the margins or underline certain passages or sentences, but for the
most part I just read. But I do know
that some people do like to own books in order to make their own notes. As it is impolite to mark up library books
(and useless since you have to return them), people must buy books to make
notes in them.
this is just another example of excessive American consumerism? We certainly do like to own things. It makes us feel good. I know that the book buying addiction is not
a uniquely American thing as many of my international friends are just as
culpable as me, but it could still account for some of the massive book buying
that happens. Whatever the reason, the
fact that people enjoy using their hard earned cash to purchase books shows
that it must be important to them. For
readers, buying books is an enjoyable activity in life.
Eventually, my brother did purchase the book for her when he found it for much
 There is
a very funny story of hers which involves one of her favorite books, a toilet,
and an immediate trip to the bookstore to get a replacement.