Why you should own more books than you can read

Sanjar Kairosh
November 17th, 20202 min read
Photo by Zaini Izzuddin on Unsplash

I have only read about two-thirds maybe less, of the books I have at home, yet I still keep buying new books from Indigo or loading books from my local library.

I love books. I don't think I can name many places I like to visit more than libraries or book stores. Walking into them gives me a huge sense of awe and inspiration. All this knowledge lying on the shelves, readily available for me to digest.

Until recently I was certain I had an extremely bad habit. I would always pick up new books while older books would lie unfinished on my shelves at home.

I would visit the library, loan a book, read a bit at home, and on my next visit loan yet another book. The same ritual would repeat at Indigo. I would walk into the store knowing that I have just recently purchased books, and nevertheless leave the store with a new book.

Presently I have six to seven books I recently bought from Indigo of which a single page has not been turned.

This gave me a sense of "unfinished business" or disorganization. I tried for a very long time to fix this habit by finishing all my books before obtaining a new one. But after reading this article by BigThink I don't think I should change anything about it anymore.

Read Books Are Far Less Valuable Than Unread Ones

The article mentions Umberto Eco and his huge personal library amassing more than 30,000 books. Visitors would walk into the library and marvel at the volumes mistaking it for all the knowledge Eco obtained through the years. But few would actually realize that a large portion of those books represented what Eco aspired to read, not what he has already read.

This one anecdote struck a chord with me. I immediately grasped the significance of the unread books lying on my shelves. One will accumulate more books and more knowledge as they grow older and read more. And as the number of read books occupying the shelves increases so should the number of unread books. They will serve as a reminder of the known ignorance, emboldening the person to keep on reading, to keep on gaining more valuable knowledge.

Each time I visit a book store or a library nowadays, I feel less guilt about taking more books home with me. I make it a priority to always have more books at home than I can read, serving as a constant reminder of my "unfinished business".


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