I’ve read several articles lately on “tsundoku,” the Japanese word that is used to describe a person who buys or owns more books than they can read. I freely admit that I am a practitioner of buying more than I can read. I currently have several hundred books in my TBR piles. In fact, I bought two book carts to store the books I have yet to read (still not enough space). I usually have every intention of reading the books that I buy, it’s just that I keep discovering new authors and new books that interest me. If only I could read faster!
There are those rare instances, though, when I purchase a book knowing full well I won’t read it. There is just something appealing about the book, and I feel I must have it. For instance, many years ago I purchased Great Truths by Great Authors: A Dictionary of Aids to Reflection, Quotations of Maxims, Metaphors, Counsels, Cautions, Aphorisms, Proverbs, &c. &c. (Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo & Co. 1853). I will be completely honest and say I do not care so much about the quotations in this book. I’m not sure what made me pick it up in the first place as the outside of the book is in rough shape and the spine is cracked. For some reason, though, I did pick it up and noticed that someone had taken notes in the book. And had used it to press flowers. It was well worn, and it spoke to me as a book that someone in the past had cared for a great deal. So, I bought it and have had it in my collection for at least 20 years now.
Another example is a book I purchased within the past year. Birds of America (Garden City, New York: Garden City Books 1936), is a big, heavy book. I saw it in a thrift shop and picked it up because I like birds. The outside of the book is nothing remarkable; but I opened it and saw that there were illustrations that I enjoyed. I made someone’s cash register sing again that day!
My most favorite acquisition of this type occurred just a few weeks ago. I picked up a faded blue volume of The Golden Apple by Kathlyn Rhodes (London: Hutchinson & Co., undated). I have no idea what this book is about, and I had not previously heard of this author. The pages have all yellowed, are somewhat brittle, and the cover is well worn. Again, for some reason, I picked up this book and flipped it open. What did I discover? Someone had hand painted a beautiful village scene on the inside front cover. Oh. My. Goodness! The book is now mine. I would love to know the story of the previous owner of the book and also who painted this lovely picture. I don’t know if I’ll ever read the story, but I shall treasure this book for the rest of my life.
I admit that I often judge a book by its cover. These are but a few examples of great finds in my personal library, and they show me that I should never do that! If I only bought by sight and not instinct, I never would have touched these books or discovered these treasures. What about you? Do you ever judge a book by its cover? What is your book buying philosophy?