A Habit of Books

 I own both a Kindle Paperwhite and a Kindle Fire HDX tablet.  I have a cell-phone with the Kindle app on it, and my Microsoft Surface Pro also has the Kindle app, as does my desktop computer.  Most of the books I buy and read are ebooks; I make it a point, in fact, to buy the ebooks if they are available.

If you were paying attention to the previous sentence, I only said “most” of the books I buy are ebooks.

My house is overflowing with the old-fashioned dead-tree variety of books. I’m actually not quite sure how many physical books I have—three thousand is a conservative estimate. And their number keeps growing by the dozens each and every year.  People who visit our home regularly ask, “have you read all those books?”  My response is along the lines of, “do you ever leave a bag of M&Ms uneaten?”

I have entirely managed to stop getting my magazines and newspapers in physical dead-tree form.  Even the venerable National Geographic and Readers Digest only arrive in digital form (received monthly on my Kindle Fire HDX). Thus, I don’t have the storage problem any longer of saving my National Geographics and Reader’s Digests as my grandfather before me did.  I still remember many summers spent sprawled in his attic reading through old copies as my dad expressed puzzlement that I would spend my summers doing that instead of running around the fields and woods of my grandfather’s farm (though I did venture outside now and then).

Nevertheless, I have been unable to entirely give up my addiction to actual bookstores. This past week spent in Ohio visiting my mother contributed to my book addiction issues.  My mother took me to a wonderful used bookstore in Westerville, not far from her home.  It is a bookstore I had visited previously on other visits to Ohio.  I spent at least two hours wandering the aisles and accumulating a stack of books, both hardback and paperback: ten of them.

This created a practical problem, since I had packed rather lightly coming to Ohio, having taken only one carryon bit of luggage with me.  To solve the problem of going home, my mom gave me a fabric grocery bag into which I loaded the books.  Yes, the bag was exceptionally heavy, but it did fit under the seat in front of me on the airplane, while my actual luggage slid easily into the overhead luggage bin.  And since my return flight was nonstop, I didn’t have to fear running a mad dash through a terminal to make a connecting flight.  Unlike my trip to Ohio, where I changed planes in Detroit—after my flight was late and I had barely twenty minutes to scamper a full mile from one end of that airport to the other to catch the connecting flight to Columbus.

The cloth bag held together despite bearing weight far beyond its design specifications—until I loaded it into my middle daughter’s car at LAX. Just as I was sliding it onto the back seat one of its handles pulled loose.  But the bag had served its purpose: I got those books safely to my house.

And at my house is where I face the problem that my Kindles have largely solved: the storage of all these physical books.  My office is floor to ceiling bookcases on all four walls—built-in bookcases I built myself from nice oak plywood.  A couple of years ago I added three shelves to my L-shaped desk in my office to store some more books. 

In the family room, one twelve-foot length of wall is covered, floor to ceiling, with the same sort of built-in bookcases.  The opposite wall, above the piano, has three shelves, also full of books.  And therein lies the problem: the shelves are packed; not only are there books sitting nicely the way books are supposed to sit on the shelves, the spaces above the vertically-sitting books are packed with books crammed in horizontally.  There were few spaces left to fit more books.

Few, not none.

I somehow succeeded in getting the ten new books from Ohio onto the shelves, though five are simply stacked sideways atop a line of books set vertically across the piano.

Just before I left for Ohio, my wife and I got some nice new furniture—the first new furniture we’ve gotten in our thirty-two years of marriage (why buy furniture when you can buy books?)  And I noticed today that in the corner of the family room I now have at least four feet of wall space into which I could build a nice bookcase of oak plywood.

Of course, once I moved all the books currently crammed horizontally above all the other books in the other bookcases, I suspect this new bookcase would be immediately full.  But then all that lovely horizontal space would become available and might serve my needs for another couple of years.

It's a good thing my wife likes books as much as I do.