I’ll never forget that, when I was preparing to move from my childhood home into my first apartment, one of my friends gave me such grief over how many books I had to move. This was years ago, too, so I probably only had about 300 books, maybe even less. They all fit in two giant tubs, which is honestly laughable now. But she thought it was so ridiculous that I was carting around that many books, said she always gave away most of her books when she had to move and only kept the ones that meant something to her. And while I can totally get in that mindset, this conversation has been living rent-free in my head for five years now, so here I am, finally talking about why I own 800+ books, and why I am 100% going to take all of them with me when I next move.
I’ve been reading my entire life. When I was a wee thing, and my dad was mostly responsible for my cultural upbringing, we watched movies, he read me books, and he gave me action figures to play with. He fostered and cultivated my imagination in a way that makes it undeniable why I am the way I am today.
Some of it is definitely not him. I have a weird fascination with religion because of a long history of mentally traumatizing religious experiences, and I can’t totally explain why I did an about face with that and said hey I love it! instead. It’s the space problem–was so afraid of space that I couldn’t walk outside at night, so I tortured myself on Google Earth until I fell in love with it. But some of it is also definitely him. I am stupidly obsessed with Lord of the Rings because he handed me the books when the movies came out and said, “Study up, I want to go see these.” He started my journey of reading by myself with things like DragonLance. And though he made me stand in the kitchen for the sex scenes in Underworld, he was the one that introduced me to vampires.
I would say that I probably started collecting books around that young age, when I was impressionable and falling hardcore in love with Kate Beckinsale and Michael Sheen at the same time. We went to every midnight release of Harry Potter, and my dad used to lock up the books downstairs so that I would go to bed instead of staying up all night reading. And even though I started reading them on my own with book five, he still did it, maybe for the nostalgia, or maybe because I was still young and impressionable and definitely needed sleep. But it was around the fifth one that he started giving them back to me when he was finished reading, and though it would take some time before I was old enough to have my own money to shop with and think of buying books, that was the beginning.
Somewhere, about one million years ago, I wrote a post about my history as a reader, and it’s been a journey fraught with false starts. I read a lot in high school, whether it was classics for my several English classes or young adult novels that were featured at Barnes & Noble. I reread the Twilight series an embarrassing amount of times–not embarrassing because those books are trash, but embarrassing because I think I read the second one nine times in one year?? I wouldn’t do that for a single book now. I started collecting Ellen Hopkins books, which was probably the start of buying without reading because, when I unhauled her books last year, there were still some that I had never read. I went to Borders on a regular basis, and I walked myself slowly through the young adult section, making a mental list of books to pick up the next time since I could only afford a few at a time.
And then, rudely, I made a decision in college. Since I was an adult now, I could only read adult books, so I stopped going into the young adult section, and I started only picking from the adult fantasy or literary section, and my goodness did my reading tank. Throughout college, the only non-school books that I read were Maggie Stiefvater, Harry Potter and Eragon rereads, and a few randoms here or there. By the time I was graduating and moving back home, I had about one small bookcase worth of books, and it never ceased to strike me as odd that someone who wrote books didn’t really read a lot of them.
I can remember December 2016 clear as day. I was in Maine visiting Erin, and I told her that I was fed up with not reading books. It was probably around the same time that I was starting to blog, although that had several false starts, too, and I was finally breaking away from writing the same series for the last twelve years. I said that I wanted to go into the young adult section and stop pretending I had to read a certain age range just because I was that age range, and what do you know, my reading went from about 30 books a year to somewhere in the 70s, and it’s only grown larger since.
I love books. Over the last six years since I started reading young adult again, my collection has grown from probably 100 to over 800. And I get it! I get why people only keep books that they think they’re going to reread, or books that they love with all their heart, or ones that they want to display. I get why people have minimalist collections, or ones that are controlled by limited finances. I am not for one second advocating that if you don’t own 800+ books, you’re doing reading wrong. Which is why I think this conversation has lived in my head for so long. Why do people care so much that I do own 800+ books?
Recently, I said to Erin that I thought it might be nice to sleep in a different room from my books when I can finally afford a house, and she said that she thought it would be really strange to see my bedroom without books. For so long, I have lived surrounded by these 800+ books, and they have brought me unending comfort. At any time, I can look in any direction and find a friend. I can find a memory that I shared with my dad. I can find a book that I’ve read five times over the last decade because it’s continued to bring me joy over and over. I can find a book that I’ve cried over, or that I’ve been terrified by, or that has been turned into an adaptation that I was shocked by how much I loved. I can go on countless adventures, step into magic, and encounter things I never will in my real life.
These books, for me, are not just books, but memories and possibilities. Some people own dozens and dozens of pairs of shoes. Some own an insane amount of crystals or tarot decks. Some own things that I can’t even think of because my collection is books, and that’s the only thing I’ve ever known, and it’s the only thing I want to know. I love being surrounded by my 800+ books, most of which I have read and loved and will continue to be fond of for the rest of my life. I own 800+ books because I want to, and I don’t really care about how much effort it’s going to be to move them.