I keep my house pretty clean, but in one way my husband and I resemble those folks on the TV shows about hoarding: we acquire books. More books than we have time to read. And magazines.
We have lots of interests so when a book has a different focus than the half dozen we already own on the subject, we’re inclined to buy it. And as a writer I like to keep up with my genre, not to mention my favorite authors. And then there’s the books I buy for research. I like to underline important passages, so it wouldn’t be polite to get those books from the library. Unfortunately, I buy faster than I can read. So periodically I purge. Sometimes it’s the books I’ve read that I know I’ll never get back to, other times it’s books that got buried under more recent acquisitions. There’s never any empty shelf space, however. I tend to get rid of only enough to get the extras off the floor. And before you ask, yes, pretty much all the walls that can hold a bookshelf have one.
Books represent escape and potential and education. If I hold on to that magazine because “there’s an article I still want to read” in it, that knowledge is still available to me. Once I toss the magazine into the recycle bin, the opportunity it represents is gone. If only I could put it under my pillow and absorb it by osmosis.
Timothy Ferris recommends going on a news fast. Stop watching the news, stop reading the paper, read a little fiction at bedtime. Ask friends if there’s anything important going on in the world that you need to know. Sometimes that sounds sweet. So often major news media hype and skew the news to boost ratings. But that really means we need to multiply our sources of information, not reduce them. And as a writer, I never know where the seeds of my next story will come from (so I can add to the number of books in the world). I can’t afford to live in a bubble.
There are only 112 usable hours in a week (assuming one gets a healthy eight hours of sleep), and some of those need to be used for bathing, exercising, and writing my own stuff. Piling my plate high at the book buffet doesn’t mean I’ll actually be able to consume it all, no matter how fast I read. The year 1492 was probably the last year a well educated person could know most of all there was to know. It’s long past impossible now. Now the best we can hope for is to either know a lot about one thing, or sample several areas. Even Marilyn vos Savant can’t know it all.
Maybe I need to go on a book diet.