Last week, Sharon and I were discussing a book she wants to read that I own a copy of, and we agreed on the one major failing of borrowing a book: you don’t get to keep it. I’m a hard copy person (a trade paperback person, if we’re getting specific), and I not only want to own physical copies of the books I’ve read and loved, I want to own the exact copy I read and loved. I’ll borrow a galley if I want to read the book before I can buy it and don’t have a copy of my own, but if the book is available for purchase, I’d rather go buy it just in case I love it enough to give it a permanent home on my shelves.
I mean, sure, I could borrow the book and go out and buy my own if it turns out to be worthy, but then I wouldn’t have an emotional attachment to the book as an object as well as to the book’s contents, and it’s just not the same. I’ve always wanted to be a library person, since it’s obviously more fiscally sensible, but ultimately I’d rather forego new clothes and expensive dinners and fancy technology and living in a trendy neighborhood so I can curate my own personal library. One day I’m going to be a rich person with a dedicated library and rolling ladder, and I want the books that I fly past Beauty in the Beast-style to tell the story of my reading history.
This is such a strong issue, that it turns out both Sharon and I have some books that we own in two copies: the one we read, and the one we got signed at an event. I’m not really that big on signed books, but obviously, you can’t get rid of a signed copy, especially if it was personalized. But how am I supposed to part with the object I was holding in my hands as I experienced a book that means something to me? That would just be insane. So I’ll just persist with multiple copies of Let the Great World Spin on my shelves forever.
Many of the books I own have lived on two continents, in two countries, in three towns/cities, in two boroughs of NYC, and in around ten apartments. I paid about $100 extra just to get all my books on the plane when I moved home after grad school in Ireland. And when I’m old and grey, they’ll still be there, physical reminders of the worlds I’ve had the good fortune to temporarily inhabit.