This is not like my normal posts. Normal service will soon be resumed.
A thought just came to me while reading a friend’s Facebook status update. She mentioned about libraries and it occurred to me that one of the things I appreciated most whilst growing up was having access to my father’s bookshelf. I wouldn’t say there was anything particularly exceptional on it but they were mostly non-fiction. Not that I’ve got anything against fiction – far from it, but fiction does not generally impart knowledge.
They covered subjects that I would likely never have been exposed to through anything more than perhaps a passing remark, and even in this age of instant access to vast quantities of information through the web, there is nothing like a well-structured book written by someone who knows what they are talking about to give you a basic understanding of a new concept. Excellent as Wikipedia is, there is NEVER enough detail. As a child, I had little or no pre-conceived ideas that some new subject might not interest me, so I would happily pick up anything from a book on cacti, a first aid manual, a dictionary or anything really.
Probably about five years ago I got into the habit of buying secondhand books on eBay or AbeBooks about anything and everything that I became aware of and was new to me. This has led to some rather unusual subjects, admittedly, and quite a few of them remain unread as yet. In fact I think I subconsciously try to find books that are as obscure as possible just for the sake of it. I’ve actually surprised myself at how often I find the most unusual relevant to everyday life.
I deliberately buy secondhand (if possible) as I like that each book will have some unknown history, and also that the quality of paper used in softback books earlier than say about 1980 seems much higher than the paper currently used, which seems to yellow within about 3 years of manufacture. I have a copy of Jonathon Swift’s Gulliver from the 1940s that the paper is still nearly white in!
I think my reason for doing so is that because I enjoyed having my father’s books to stimulate my personal intellectual development, and as I believe that I will want children at some point later on in life, I would like them to have the same opportunity.
The reason why so many are still unread is that they will be there for the rest of my life, and when the mood takes me I just pick up something that will likely send my interests off on some unknown tangent. It is my ultimate aim to fill a room with books. My own personal library.