For the last couple of months, most of my books have been slumbering in a suitcase inside my wardrobe. The reason is simple: I have no space for a new bookshelf and I was tired of living with piles of books under my bed. Yeah, I know.
In hindsight, I cannot believe that it took weeks of weighing the pros and cons before giving up and deciding to only keep the unread pile and a few lucky hardbacks on the bookshelf.
I don’t know when I started loving the sight of bookshelves; I have the suspicion it might have been the crucial scene in Beauty and the Beast when the Beast seals the deal by giving Belle a whole library. Lately, I have definitely been swayed by booktubers and their ceiling-high, triple-stacked bookshelves. I can feel myself salivating just at the thought.
I have always defined myself by how much I loved books, but I have never been attached to the physical objects. Especially as a child and a teenager, I would mostly be in perennial transit between my house and the library, and only get a few new books of my own for my birthday and Christmas. To this day, my bookshelf at my parents’ is completely manageable.
When I became so preoccupied with showing off my books, though, is an entirely different matter. Why did the idea of putting them away trouble me so much? It’s not like I have a library with spiral staircases to fill up. I don’t collect fancy antique books.
Do my battered paperbacks really deserve all that space and attention? Would it make any difference to me, deep down, if I threw away everything and downloaded my entire book collection on my e-reader?
Truth is, it probably wouldn’t. I don’t reread very often and the idea of moving houses would give me much less anxiety if I didn’t have hundreds of books to pack. The only thing that would be damaged is my need to appear smart and well-read. To take pictures of my bookshelf and post them on Twitter, to walk past it and feel accomplished because I’ve read all those pretty books.
It’s like entering an irresponsible amount of books in my Goodreads Challenge widget or posting a picture of every single book I start on Instagram – in part it’s because I want to share my passion with my friends and colleagues, but on the other hand I feel like it might have made me care too much about showing off rather than, you know, actually doing some reading.
All that Booktube-watching, Goodreads-updating and review-writing has turned me from a library aficionada to a book hoarder, and I didn’t even realize until I was pretty far down the spiral.
It feels odd to say it, but forcing myself to step away from my books made me realize that I have been behaving like a crazy person. I cannot believe that, for weeks, I debated with my partner on whether we should end up on an episode of Hoarding: Buried Alive or just put away a few dozens of books. Even if they are in a suitcase, my bookshelf will survive. I will survive just fine as well.