The most frequent complaint Americans have about their homes is the lack of storage space. Shockingly, we permit high school students to graduate without the basic skill to hang shelves, let alone patch a hole in their walls. But, already I digress.
Storage is but half the equation. On the other side dwells the pack rat syndrome (dementia rattus semperstashius). Those of us raised to believe in the value of reading books — and remembering the facts therein — were also taught to hold onto our books for a variety of logical and emotional reasons. We tell ourselves that one day we may want to read them again, that we will lend them to friends, and, perhaps, that some could turn out to be collectible. Old books are like old friends, reminding us of pleasurable hours spent together. Or they nag us for never having finished them.
But at another level, our books are decor, the wallpaper of the erudite. Behind the talking heads of news shows and infomercials lurk rows of impressively bound books. Similarly, our personal libraries signal to guests who we are and who we wish to be. If we save them long enough, they end up, like a photo album, revealing how our present selves came to be.