Forgive me for the really dumb title. I sat here for about ten minutes trying to come up with something better and decided that any more thought on this is simply wasting time. I know the answer to that question. Fire + Paper = Library of Ashes. That’s not quite the question that I am asking.
Let’s imagine this. Your entire personal library is destroyed. Maybe its 15 books maybes its 1500. Thankfully your fire insurance is kickin’ and you get enough change to replenish your library with an Amazon shopping spree. You lost your old library but now you have your library refilled with brand new copies of the books you lost. Here’s my question: Did you still lose your library?
I know that I would have. If my personal library were somehow destroyed by fire it couldn’t be replaced. Sure I could repurchase the books with insurance money. But the books that I got in the mail wouldn’t have my underlines, my notes, my comments, etc. I would feel like I had to read the books all over again.
What I am really wondering in this article is whether or not you actually own the books that you have on your shelf. I agree with John Piper when he says:
My guess is that reading, which was meant to be become a stimulus and guide to independent thinking, usually becomes a substitute for it. The evidence for this is how many books we read and how little we write down. (Quoted from Lit, by Tony Reinke)
Listen, it’s awesome to have a big library. It’s even better to have actually read the books in your library. But it’s even better to actually own those books and to think your way through them. Owning 10 books in that way is much better than “owning” them as a wall decoration.
Read your books and own your books. After all you aren’t shaped by the books you purchase but only the books that you actually read.