On hoarding books

Forget toilet paper, books are the way to go (and depending on who wrote any given one, you might solve both problems at once). Steven Beattie investigates whether (more likely “when”) book collecting becomes book hoarding. Speaking as part of a pair that has about 4000 books in the house, I don’t know that we’re there yet.

It takes a true bibliophile to appreciate the desire not just to read books, but to surround oneself with them, to collect them, to pile them on shelves until the wood bows from the weight. These are the people who, in the face of the current interior design fad for minimalism, will respond that books decorate a room; they will heap teetering stacks of books on tabletops and scatter them across the floors of studies, living rooms, bedrooms. These are the people who will continue to purchase new books even though they already have more than they can hope to read in several lifetimes.

We bibliophiles do not want to consider ourselves hoarders, in part because we fear some psychological impairment in the impulse to hoard, something that goes beyond the affront to postmodern interior design and Marie Kondo. We watch the documentary series Hoarders aghast, our mouths open in horror at the squalor and presumed maladjustment on offer, the unspoken question on our lips: how can anyone possibly live that way? We fail to make the connection with the lumpen masses of paper and glue strewn all about us.

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