There’s something so pleasantly aspirational about buying books, isn’t there? Buying anything is at least a little performative: you’re not just buying a blazer, you’re buying the future in which you’re the kind of person who wears a blazer more than once a year. You’re not just buying Etrian Odyssey 5, you’re buying the self-deception that you have enough time and energy to pour into a forty-hour video game like you did when you were young. You’re not just buying a collection of Umberto Eco essays: you’re buying the idea that you can be the kind of person who reads them, and is thus enriched.
Clearly I don’t mean that in a cynical way: I bought twenty one books for the tidy sum of $46. Some of these were hashtag-literature that I wanted copies of (Death of a Salesman, Das Kapital). A whole bunch were poetry collections by authors with whom I was heretofore unfamiliar. A handful were artifacts more than actual things to be read (an old copy of Robert’s Rules of Order, an 1889 manual on Surgical Operations). The remaining few are things I actually intend to read in the next few months: a David Sedaris book, The Lonely Polygamist, and that aforementioned collection of Umberto Eco essays.
Reading has shifted for me in 2018. In the past, it used to be almost cardiovascular: it took endurance and no small amount of dedication to read every day, even just a couple dozen pages, to tear myself from screens and to kick up my feet on the proverbial (and, later, literal) Eames to sink into words.
Now it is much more of a restorative activity. I’m not sure if that’s a reflection on the power of habit-forming or just the fact that I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve been reading lately (or the fact that it’s been exceptionally nice out the past week, which lends itself for park-bench reading) — but there is nothing that my body craves more at the end of a work day than thirty minutes of silence and text. And buying two dozen books feels like an affirmation of that in the same way that buying a new Moleskine every New Years’ feels like an affirmation of “yes, this year will be the year that I journal daily and take prodigious notes and keep a commonplace book and do all the things the ideal version of myself should be doing”.
(One other thing — as big a fan as I am of e-books, there is no e-book equivalent to a new stack of books on your coffee table. No e-book equivalent to a used book fair at all, the camaraderie of being one of hundreds of hungry readers letting their fingers travel like skipping-stones across beleaguered spines. No e-book equivalent for opening a copy of Plain Words: A Guide To The Use of English and having an actuary’s business card fall out. Maybe you can chalk that up for purity of content, but it’s certainly less fun.)
I hope you buy yourself a book just because the cover looks cool.