Have you read all those books?

Do you hear this on a regular basis? Does it annoy you or do you answer with a smile?

I dread the day when my (rapidly growing) reference library starts drawing this question. I think that to ask someone whose library is a work tool (such as a teacher, lawyer or writer or indeed a translator like myself) this question shows both ignorance and bad manners. I’m sure mechanics or dentists don’t often get asked if they really use all their tools, but display a wall of bookcases full of reference books and sooner or later someone will in all earnestness ask you if you have really read them all. I mean, come on, how many people do you know who have read the entire Oxford English Dictionary?

As for book collections meant mainly for pleasure reading, what the people who ask this question don’t realise is that for someone whose main hobby is reading, the point of having many books is not that you have read them all and are now proudly displaying your accomplishment, but that you don’t ever want to run out of something to read. This I smilingly explain to those who ask. After all, they are probably expressing admiration or wonder rather than disapproval (I hope).

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P.S. How can you tell you have too many books?

A possible answer: When you can no longer open the refrigerator or use the toilet because of the books stacked in front of them, and you live in constant fear of bookslides.

Honest answer: A true bibliophile can never have too many books.

Comments

jmnlman said…
Nothing like the "you should finish what you have before getting more" discussion...
Bibliophile said…
Ah, yes. I have had that one with my mother on several occasions.

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