Why I quit building my library

Someone once said that the three things you’ll leave behind when you die are your photos, your journals, and your books. I think each of those tell a lot about a person. And for a while, I wanted to leave a lot of each when I die, leave a good representation.

I still collect photos. I still journal, even kind of publicly here at Marshallogue. But I’ve quit amassing a library to leave behind.

I quit for a few reasons.

  • It became a god. I found myself making decisions based on making a better library rather than on the actual material in the books. I wanted to read books to finish them, to check them off my list, to feel all accomplished, all of which are the wrong reasons to read.
  • It became a status symbol. I started wanting to buy books and read them just so people would look at them and think I was smart. I wanted to read certain kinds of books even to give the impression that I was cultured, whatever that means.
  • It became a hassle. I realized I didn’t want to have to move an entire library of books around with me my whole life. I’d rather be light. That’s certainly going to get harder as my own family starts to grow. I don’t need to complicate that with a ton, literally 2,000 pounds, of books.
  • It became selfish. Why not give away books I read rather than keeping them around without really reading them again, just so I look smart or my house looks impressive?

Don’t get me wrong. I still love books. I like the feel of them. I like the look of them. It’s still my favorite present. If I lived in a perfect world, I’d still like to have a special library room covered with books, especially those old ones that look all special and distressed and wise.

It’s not that I don’t value books and the collection of them. It’s that I value other things more.