Why you should own more books than you can read

I have only read about two thirds, maybe less, of the books I currently have at home, yet I still keep buying new books from Indigo and loaning books from my local library.

Photo by Zaini Izzuddin on Unsplash

I love books. I don’t think I can name many places I like to visit more than libraries or book stores. Walking into them gives me a huge sense of awe and inspiration. All this knowledge lying on the shelves, readily available for me to digest.

Until recently I was certain I had an extremely bad habit. I always pick up new books while older books lie unfinished on my shelves at home.

I would visit the library, loan a book, read a bit at home, and on my next visit loan yet another book. The same ritual would repeat at Indigo. I would walk into the store knowing that I have just recently purchased books, and nevertheless leave the store with a new book.

Presently I have six to seven books I recently bought from Indigo of which a single page has not been turned.

This gave me a sense of “unfinished business” or disorganization. I tried for a very long time to fix this habit by finishing all my books before obtaining a new one. But after reading this article by BigThink I am not so bothered by my habit anymore.

Read Books Are Far Less Valuable Than Unread Ones

The article mentions Umberto Eco and his huge personal library amassing more than 30,000 books. Visitors would walk into the library and marvel at the volumes mistaking it for all the knowledge Eco obtained through the years. But few would actually realize that a large portion of those books represented what Eco aspired to read, not what he has already read.

This one anecdote struck a chord with me. I immediately grasped the significance of the unread books lying on my shelves. One will accumulate more books and more knowledge as they grow older and read more. And as the number of read books occupying the shelves increases so should the number of unread books. They will serve as a reminder of the known ignorance, emboldening the person to keep on reading, to keep on gaining more valuable knowledge.

Each time I visit a book store or a library nowadays, I feel less guilt about taking more books home with me. I make it a priority to always have more books at home than I can read, serving as a constant reminder of my “unfinished business”.

Full Stack Engineer. Enjoys reading. Writes about a mixture of topics to satisfy curiosity.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store