What if we don't need 10,000 books to fill entire rooms in our house?
What if all we needed were a few really exceptional books that spoke to us? Books that we could re-read again and again?
Naturally, I am a hypocrite. I say these things after recently carrying a gym bag filled to the brim with 40 pounds of unread books I couldn't leave behind (after a recent move) through airport security.
The bag was flagged by the security agent (she was a lovely, soft-spoken older women) and I spent a few minutes chatting with her about the book titles/subjects, and her daughter's interest in reading. The best part was, she didn't find any dope.
Still, I left more books behind than I took with me. That must stand for something. I won't even mention my trip to the bookstore almost immediately after landing...
In 2019, more than 1.6 million books were published. If you started speed reading at 400 words per minute right now and never took breaks, it would only take you 456 years to read them all.
Of course, a bunch of those books are trash. You could narrow it down to the top 1,000 and only read those, which would take a sleepless 104 days. Actually, that doesn't make reading 1,000 new books sound all that bad...
What was my point again?
Oh yes, narrowing down one's book collection.
You could keep only the best of the best, the books that you have given 5 stars. The rest you could donate to a school, a library, or someone who writes and maintains a blog.
For me, that would mean keeping books like 100 Years of Solitude or Atomic Habits (the book I have gifted most to friends and family), and donating books like Murakami's A Wild Sheep Chase.
Fundamentally, I am calling for no less than a minimalist book revolution.
As the Taiwanese writer Lu Ka-shiang once said:
“The love for books is the same as that for friends, you might not need a lot of books, but why do you keep flipping through pages and purchasing new ones? That is because you are fearful of missing a friend in the world that is worth knowing in your life.”
It is certainly okay to go out and make new friends, but you wouldn't keep thousands of your friends locked up at night in your living room.
You don't need a lot of friends. You don't need a lot of books.
I want to make a list of the most indispensable books I own. Books I will never dispense with. Books that capture the beauty and magic of language and story in a way that few other books can.
What books are on that list for you?
Which books can you let go of, and feel lighter for having done so?