It is neither a matter of shame nor shortcoming when you possess a great book but couldn’t find time to go through the contents. It happens all the time with lovers of books, including scholars and authors. A lifetime of collecting books left the writer Howard Jacobson with back injuries, a lack of living space and a sense of sheer pointlessness. But he would do it all over again:
“I can't remember how old I was when I began collecting second-hand books. I'd like to say eight or nine, but that's because I want to be thought of as bookishly precocious. In fact, going by the purchase dates I bothered to write in the oldest volumes in my collection I can find, I must have been about 12. I'll settle for that. Twelve's good. There are worse things to do when you're 12.
My father wasn't so sure. He objected to my bringing books home before I'd read the previous lot. He didn't understand that books could just sit on shelves, unopened, and still satisfy whatever need drove the collector to collect them. Though he was no reader himself, an unopened book drove him to madness. "It would be like me ordering a meal and not eating it," he said. An eventuality that was, indeed, inconceivable. "I'll open them all one day, when I have to," I told him. But by his reasoning they would, by that time, have gone cold. And the truth is there remain hundreds I haven't opened yet. Cold on my shelves, they stare out at me, with chill reproach. But who's to say the hour won't yet come when they are needed?”
- Howard Jacobson, novelist and columnist, author of the Booker prize winner The Finkler Question
The city of San Francisco is home to some of the world's best bookshops, including one which specialises in obscure political tracts and another which has become synonymous with the Beat literary movement. One of the frequent shoppers at these bookshops, my daughter-in-law, Ranjan, who can easily boast of having, perhaps, the biggest home-library, also agrees:
“YES, it's completely normal. I myself consider books to be beautiful things to own and adorn my bookshelf, whether I read them immediately or not (though I only buy books that I would like to read some time in the future). There are some books I've been gifted on several occasions but haven't read (I started reading, but didn't like them, and so on), but it's nice to have them in my collection to brag about, nevertheless. There's a certain pleasure I derive in just collecting books.
And to prove I’m not alone in this predicament, let me share with you a quote by Arnold Lobel:
Books to the ceiling,
Books to the sky,
My pile of books is a mile high.
How I love them! How I need them!
I'll have a long beard by the time I read them.
Not only it's normal, the Japanese even have a word for that: "tsundoku". Its definition is: Buying books and not reading them [noun]. I particularly felt like that for a time, but I'm trying to change it, not because I think it's bad per se, but because I've realized reading something is more pleasurable in the long run.”