The Overwhelming Case of the Library Book Limit

At our public library we have a seemingly endless number of books we can check out (I hit the 40s with no punishment by the law.) For someone who loves to stroll the shelves and pick books at each sign of inspiration, this quickly leads to a towering handful. For months the bookcase by my bed had been the library shelf. One half fiction, one half non-fiction, sometimes sorted by when books were due, sometimes sorted by interest. This was my madness. Look at the books, rearrange the books, touch the books, get more books, panic when the books were overdue, but never actually read all the books.

A lot of them were good intention books. Popular science or psychology that promised to tell me how to be a better me. A book about romance. A book about careers. A book about friendship. A book about being alive. I’d look at them and tell myself it made me happy to be surrounded by all of these books. But when I recently came back from vacation, I realized the truth. They were a heavy weight on my reading habit. They had become a requirement. Read me, read me, read me, read me before I have to go away again. Some books only stayed temporarily on my shelves like foster children I hardly cared for. It made me feel slightly sick and ashamed. Being away for two weeks I was able to see clearly that these were books I’d never want to read. They were only books I wished I could have said I’d read. I heaved them into a bag and returned all but four.

Books should make you feel good. 

I went to the library a week after coming back and saw a display of zines. I’ve never read a zine before but I was drawn to these small, delicate books. They inspired me because they seemed to have either no purpose at all or some very specific purpose. Maybe books are like seasons and you have to adjust. I used to like this, now I like this. This little zines helped me realize there doesn’t have to be any specific requirements on my reading shelf.


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