I took the photo, but this is not my bookshelf.
What? Why have I never thought of this before?
The ‘Read Every Book on your Shelf’ Project! The REBOYS Project?
Well, for one, it’s terribly daunting. I mean, who’s ever actually read all the books on their bookshelves? Or the night table by your bed, where many of them tend to migrate?
I can buy chocolate and have no problem devouring it, but when I buy a book, unless I consume it voraciously, right away, it becomes decoration and kind of ceases to exist the way it’s meant to be in this world: to be read and loved, just like it deserves to be. Like I do with so many of its friends, newly bought or borrowed.
I just wrote an article about the importance of reading actual books, and it was published on elephant journal. And I stand by every syllable I wrote there.
But I also realized, as much as I love reading and DO read, how have I managed to escape reading all the books I actually own, over and over in my life, no matter how many times I’ve purged and started over?
Habits are hard to break.
I love love love love books. In addition to actually reading them, I love holding them, flipping through the pages, smelling them, arranging them by aesthetic appeal, taking in the magic of typology and design. Give me a bookstore through Door A and any other store through Door B, and I’ll choose Door A every time (there are probably some exceptions, but I can’t think of them right now.)
I honestly don’t have too many weaknesses when it comes to buying things, but books are utterly in a world of their own, in my “books” (ugh).
Before I upped and left my home in Canada for years of travel that have not yet ended, I gave away most of my furniture, kitchen stuff, shoes and clothes … you name it. But I couldn’t part with my books. Into box after box they went, and I currently fantastize about them in my parents’ basement. (thanks, Mom and Dad!)
I spent years and years cultivating and fine-tuning those bookshelves! They made my living room, and eventually a wall in the kitchen of my fairly small apartment what they were. They breathed life and living into my space.
No, I never quite read all of them. But I really meant to. And those I did read, some over and over, were alive with our joint history. I scribbled notes in them, had one-sided debates and love affairs with the authors, and simply had a long and full relationship with them.
How does one part with that?
Yet I did (de)part, first for Southeast Asia and India, and then for Japan, with my newly-minted Japanese husband (who doesn’t quite share my fixation with books).
We spent years shuttling back and forth between Thailand, Laos and India, and I managed what I thought would be impossible – to keep my “shelf” of books down to the two or three I was currently reading, which I would trade in for new books when I needed to. It pained me to let go of the books, some of which I came to hold dear, which happens all too often. Sometimes I’m afraid to read a book, which I think consider to become a part of my skin, and who parts with their skin?
I’ll admit I kept a few I deemed absolutely essential (like a book on Tibetan dreaming), and I eventually sent a few of these essentials “home) (thanks Mom and Dad, and in-laws!). I mean, there was no way I was going to be in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram bookstore and not buy a few treasures.
As I mentioned, I’m in Japan now, and not in Tokyo, where my beloved Kinokuniya bookstore (which I ‘met’ in Bangkok) resides. I have very little access to English-language books, and I’m trying to avoid collecting – for now. So, my bookshelf consists of the books we managed to amass in our last weeks in India (slightly more than a few), along with some books we sent to my husband’s parents over the years, and ones I Amazon-ordered before a trip to see family in the U.S. last year – oh, and my parents gave me a few from their collection while I was there. And oh – I have managed to find a few here, as it turns out …
My photo. Not my books. I can’t understand these, and even that’s barely keeping me from wanting to own them.
Yes, it’s a pretty meager shelf of books – and I’ve successfully persisted in my habit of not reading most of them. I skim, I read chapters, but my Internet-addled brain (and Internet-based job, which I do from home) have left my head swimming with half-read articles, stories and the like.
Though I far precede the era of reading on phones, tablets, Kindles and whatever, my brain is slowly starting to move in a direction away from delicious full-book reading, and more into snippet consumption.
I don’t like it. I want to read my books, slowly, savoring them like fine wine, without a care in the world, with full capacity to lose myself in the moment.
And that’s why I’m starting this project. I will read every book on my shelf, start to finish. It may take a while. I hope it doesn’t take that long. And of course, since I’m a writer and I like sharing, I’ll write about it. I would love to see people all over the world embracing this project, and forming a community where we can reclaim our power to read-read – and to remember how delightful it is.
My photo and my shelf. I made Lucy to motivate me. She has great eyes for reading.
And what an accomplishment it would be, to actually self-educate and entertain with a collection of books we ourselves have curated for this very purpose!
We have created our own inbuilt entertainment unit, and cast it aside like yesterday’s news! And then we claim we’re bored!
How great would it be to re-visit our years-long curation project, and remember bits and piece of who we were then, who we are now, what we like and don’t like, and how we’ve changed?
How great to have a reminder of what we’d like to keep reading and what we are no longer interested in?
Let’s not waste years of book-collecting, or the actual books themselves. If we really don’t like them, we can give them away, so this is effectively a book-cleanse as well as an enriching, even enlightening experience!
I’m excited now. And I’d love for you to join me, and Read Every Book on your Bookshelf!
Here are the rules:
1) Walk over to your bookshelf.
2) Remove dust if necessary.
3) Take a book off the shelf.
4) Read it!
Am I saying, don’t buy any new books until these are done? Hmm. I’m saying try. At least be very aware and mindful of the fact that you still have a lot of other books you will joyfully be getting through, and wonder to yourself (out loud, if need be), if yet another book is necessary at this point.
Am I saying, stop reading anything online? Nope! Just make time, ideally each day, to sit down, maybe with a nice cup of coffee or tea, and enjoy the book from your shelf!
Am I saying, stop reading what you’ve got on Kindle? Well, no … but let’s start with the library that came first!
Any questions/comments? I’d love to hear from you!