Blowing the budget on books


“Second hand books are wild books, homeless books; they have come together in vast flocks of variegated feather, and have a charm which the domesticated volumes of the library lack.” Virginia Woolf

I have a problem. A BIG problem. There I’ve said it and they do say that admitting that you have a problem is the first step, right? Well I’ve admitted it and it does make me feel better. In fact, it makes me feel so good, I think I can go out and buy more books again! It’s obvious I couldn’t have overemphasized the enormity of my problem to start with. As you may have realised, that problem is books, more so the purchasing of books. So Machiavellian is this problem, that it actually tends to manifest as a good thing. My mother always encouraged reading as child, so when I buy a book I always think to myself that I’m doing something she would be proud of and of course as far as “problems” go, I could do a lot worse. Maybe I’m being too hard on myself or maybe (the more likely option) I’ve slipped back into denial again?

I am the unfortunate human being who gravitates to books, be it on holiday, at a flea market or in someone’s house. I have only recently discovered the magical gift of being able to buy second hand books online (upon discovering the sheer wonder of it I promptly purchased 14 books and then when I went back to check if it wasn’t a dream I added another 12 books to my collection). It pains me to think of how many books I am yet to read and of course, I’m not only referring to the ones I own (hence my propensity to purchase more books). I am currently in that lost no man’s land of “between books”, that idle, frustrating time between the last book you finish and the next book you start reading. Whenever I read a good book, I am almost, how shall I put this, in a relationship with the book. Yes, I know that sounds weird but luckily, we’ve already established that I have a problem. We all remember the sensation of being in a new relationship, where everything is to be experienced for the first time, where separation feels like torture and whether you want to or not, all your waking thoughts are consumed by the one you desire. We also know the comfort of the known, the warmth in the hug of the familiar, the joyousness of being recognised and acknowledged by someone you love. This is sometimes the solace I seek after finishing a book; returning to another one I have loved because when things come to an end, it is always too soon, too abrupt, too cruel. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross would be so proud to see her well-known five stages of grief process play out every time I finish a book I love.

But grief aside, it’s time to think about what the next read will be and how on earth I’m going to stop myself from buying more books. My domestic worker looks at me reproachfully as I sift through the books now finding a home on my kitchen counter (she has long since given up on the pile of books on the dining room table, at my bedside and on the arm of the couch). I smile manically, pile the books into a majestic tower and crown it with my teacup proclaiming it to be art. She’s not sold but I do see another book flirting with me, allowing the wind to gently lift it’s front cover is a rather irresistible manner.