I read an article this week that said something along the lines of all the books people own, they haven’t read a quarter of them.
This is a bit depressing. Imagine writing a book, and all the work that involves, and getting it published and getting it sold, only for it to end up sitting on a shelf, gathering dust, unread.
I guess there’s two reasons for it. One is that a book has been bought for purely decorative or ‘showing off’ reasons – like Victorian libraries filled up with job lots of the classics in handsome leather. Or the modern equivalent, the coffee table book, designed to be artfully displayed to demonstrate erudition to visitors, but never actually opened.
The other reason – and this is the one I’m guilty of – is buying a book that caught your eye, and you liked the first few pages, and you fully intended to read it, but when you got home you were distracted, you put it away, you had something else to read first, and you just never got round to it.
I know I do this. Every so often I am stern with myself, and instead of buying new books, I read the ones I already have. I must admit, I have found some gems amongst those unread books, as well as one or two mistakes. But at least those books were read now!
A book’s purpose is not to look good, or impress people, or even just be bought. A book’s purpose is to be read. Those unread books should be cracked opened, and read, and loved or hated and experienced. Otherwise it’s just a pile of papers with words on – and what a sad fate for a book that is.