Sitting next to my desk as I write is a pile of about three dozen books. On the shelf behind me are more stacks, about 8 or 9 dozen more. Most wouldn’t see that as a problem, but you see, these are books I haven’t even read yet. This isn’t even considering the1,500 or so books that fill up the rest of the shelves. These are just books that I saw in a store, saw online, thought I couldn’t live without and just had to buy; and yet I haven’t had a chance to get to read them yet.
I’ve shared often here my love for books in general. But often, I’ll be in the middle of one book, when suddenly I see two or three more that I think would be wonderful, and I buy them. Sometimes, I’ll end up putting the first book aside and start reading one of the new ones. Meanwhile, the first book is left unfinished. (I mentioned my lack of “finishing” skills back in the summer)
I think I have a problem. It’s not just the lack of finishing a book. I usually get around to that…eventually. It’s this compulsion to continue buying more and more books. The books themselves are good books. Books on theology. Books on ministry. Books on family and family worship and so on. All good books. But just because a book is good, does that mean I have to buy it? Is this a healthy thing, or is this an unhealthy compulsion?
I’ve always jokingly used Paul’s words to Timothy as somewhat of a justification for this obsession with books. Near the end of this life, the thing that he asked his young protégé to bring to him was his books (2 Timothy 4:13). Certainly this does highlight the importance of reading and study, even though we don’t know exactly what was in that collection of books. But still, does this really justify my seeming compulsion to continue buying more books.
As I said before, the growth of technology has made this worse, with my Kindle also heavy laden with more and more books. This problem is amplified by the large amount of free material available for download. Again, these are good resources. Many of the “old” books are being made available, and this is truly good. But does one man need all these? Will I ever actually get all of them read? Especially if I keep adding to the piles?
Just looking for some help and advice, I guess. Are there others out there who suffer from this obsession? Is it something I should seek treatment for? Are there any good 12 step programs for obsessive book buyers/collectors? Books are good, but is this a case of too much of a good thing?
Maybe I just need to listen to the advice from one of my mentors in the faith, C. H. Spurgeon who tells his students: Master those books you have. Read them thoroughly. Bathe in them until they saturate you. Read and reread them, masticate and digest them. Let them go into your very self. Peruse a good book several times and make notes and analyses of it. A student will find that his mental constitution is more affected by one book thoroughly mastered than by twenty books he has merely skimmed. Little learning and much pride comes from hasty reading. Some men are disabled from thinking by their putting meditation away for the sake of much reading. In reading let your motto be “much not many.” (Letters to My Students)
Much, not many. Pretty good advice. Even if I did read it in a book! Anyway, confession is good for the soul, I suppose; and I guess this is just one little way of confessing. I appreciate your prayers as I struggle with this little compulsion of mine. And if you hear of any good book sales…Don’t Tell Me!!