I have never counted properly, but I own a very great many books. At least 3,000, I should say, and perhaps a great many more. (My brother suggests that since counting them all would be time-consuming and perhaps impossible in a house with this many people, we should estimate the number by sampling how many books are on an average shelf, and then multiplying that by the average number of shelves and that by the number of bookcases. I cannot precisely claim that I am not dignifying his suggestion with an answer, since I am immortalising it here, but that is more to demonstrate how long-suffering I am rather than because I think it is a good or feasible use of time.)
Now, of these 3,000 books I own, I have not read the bulk of them. Some, yes, certainly — and some more than once — but most of them languish unread upon my shelves, despite being in my possession for years and years. Looking to my left now, at the nearest of the 15 (yes, I did count) bookcases in my home, it is a mix of things I have read many times, some I read just once (often many years ago, in high school), and any number of things that I have been meaning to read for 5 or 20 years but have not yet gotten around to. Plus there are the library books, some thirty of them, and all of the books on my Kindle.
How, you may well ask, did I come to this sad pass? A combination of events; too much time spent in bookstores in my early twenties, too much access to libraries now. Oh, that ‘too much’ is ironic, yes, I would not trade any of it — but I do hope to winnow down the books I own to something more reasonable, to either read those I have ignored or decide for once and for all that I will not. To reduce the sheer number of possibilities down to some sensible, contained few which I may say are the necessary ones, and discard the rest. I am not comfortable with abundance, overflow, disorder. Except even as I say that I find myself laughing, for I am the woman who will not pull the dandelions out of her yard, because they are beautiful, in flower and in seed.
So perhaps in the end this suits me, this house full of books I have not yet read, possibilities I have not yet explored. It is good to go through and give some of them away, free them to the wild as R. would say, where they may be picked up by some other word-hungry hunter, but for all that I daydream sometimes of myself living in a small apartment with only a library card and a laptop, for right now it suits me to have hundreds of thousands of words at my fingertips without ever turning on the computer.