When I have some privacy, one of the first things I do when I arrive at a new host’s house is check out their book collection. I love books. Reading the words of another person is like sneaking a peak into their soul. Books are the source of personal growth and it is the technology that has allowed our species to move from being an agriculture based species to where we are today. I think there is a lot you can learn about the books on a person’s shelf, even if they haven’t read them.

I have boxes of books scattered across the country. Every time I stop for a winter or something I end up buying tons of books, it is the least minimalist thing about me, and I have a hard time parting with the books. Unfortunately, I have probably only read 10% of the books I own. Despite my best intentions, I can’t help but purchase a book that seems interesting to my interests, even when I lack the time to dive into it. Also, Amazon One-Click ordering is dangerous after a couple beers.

I’m not sure this is necessarily a bad thing. Books, like most things in live, serve a multitude of purposes. Yes, the primary purpose is to share the words inside… but I could get that with Kindle books (something I’ve tried to dive into several times but I keep breaking my Kindle). I think purchasing books and displaying them is a secondary purpose that has value, it is like purchasing a piece of art. It is a way to share your interests with others in a passive way and provide them with an opportunity to break the ice about subjects they are interested in. It is a way to find common interests, even if neither of us has read the actual book on display.

Of course, I want to read the books, but sometimes I find my concentration and patience are too weak to really dive into a book, particularly non-fiction. I think school killed my passion for reading and learning, and I am just now finding ways to get it back. Which is unfortunate, I used to read a lot more, but after 16 years of being forced to read what others selected and being asked to analyze it from their point of view the idea of reading is sometimes off-putting. I do still read, I see the value in it and I get a lot out of each book I pick up, but there isn’t the enjoyment that I once had.

Things are getting better though. I’m finding the discipline to put down books I’m not enjoying (and that doesn’t serve some sort of further purpose like preparing for grad school) and getting more pleasure out of it. It, like so many things in life, is a combination of practice and reward. Sometimes a book is just practice, preparing for something else, and sometimes a book is a reward unto itself.

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