When You Have Too Many Books

Consider this a service from one reader to another. Although in the abstract the concept of too many books may seem nonsensical (like "too much oxygen"), be forewarned that there is a definite threshold beyond which further accumulation of books can be detrimental. In some cases, it may ruin your life.

It is often difficult to judge for yourself if you have too many books. In fact, one of the most insiduous things about the overaccumulation of books is that you are often not aware that you have a problem until it is too late.

In this spirit, I have pieced together a list of warning signs to help you judge if you have a problem. I ask that you read this list with a sober, sincere eye. And for God’s sake, don’t spend too long reading this list, because that stack of books behind your computer isn’t going to read itself.

  • You have more than one book on helping you cope with having lots of books
  • None of them are read
  • You earnestly believe you will one day finish your TBR pile (note: denial is a hallmark of addiction)
  • You have purchased more than one copy of War and Peace (Proust, Don Quixote, etc) under the logic that you "want to compare the translations"
  • You awake from one of those dreams where you try to run but don’t get anywhere to find yourself on your couch with a cup of steaming coffee in one hand and a book from the TBR pile in the other
  • You’re bothered that your local bookstore doesn’t put books on remainder quickly enough to keep up with you
  • You gleefully post pictures of your unread books on the internet
  • There are stacks of books in your bathroom
  • You stacked them there "temporarily" six months ago
  • Books have replaced everyday objects in your house. For example: After setting the tea kettle down on an old paperback to keep it from burning the piece of partacle-board you have placed on top of several stacks of books, you walk over and sit down on some cushions you have arranged atop several boxes of books and recline with a new purchase from your local indie.
  • You rationalize "With eBay, how can I afford not to buy so many books?"

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My name is Mark and I’m a bookaholic …

Hi Mark! (psst. I’m three chairs over to your right).

When you
— buy a third copy of a book (you haven’t read) and don’t discover it until you go home to shelve it;
— you start replacing furniture with piles of books; well, they ARE cheaper.

When you—-
stay in a really crummy apartment with a mysterious smell simply because you don’t want to move all the books, and there aren’t enough friends in the world to help you.
I’m still in denial, but save me a chair as I am moving finally this spring.

You missed one:
When you sell your furniture to pay the shipping costs for your books when you move cross-country.

Funny funny post, esp like the one about stacks left temporarily in the bathroom.
Seriously though, we live in an age where physical books are cheap–pennies, and available through Amazon. and we should be rejoicing.
I frequently buy books for a $1 or $2 at bookstores and libraries and under $5 from amazon. Why not? I’ve never regretted buying a single book in my life. Even if we discount the fact that some purchases are made on optimistic assumptions about available time, it still is a good deal.
The only deterrent to acquisition seems to be ebook readers (I recently bought an ebookwise 1150 for $99–works great!). Now I can download hundreds of pre-1923 public domain books totally guilt free (and still have room to walk around the living room).

I’m not so much an addict as an enabler.
Just include a library in your will and call it a lifelong public service project.
Books aren’t just for reading.
There there.

You missed one:
When you sell your furniture to pay the shipping costs for your books when you move cross-country.

My problem is that I don’t really like reading so much. I like reading, enjoy it, but not nearly as much as I love books. Just having them, seeing them, organizing them. It’s sort of weird. I’m buying them so much faster than I’m reading them.


The Surrender is Veronica Scott Esposito’s “collection of facts” concerning how she embraced her true gender.


Two long essays of 10,000 words each on sex in—and out of—literature . . .

The first essay dives in to Nicholson Baker’s “sex trilogy,” explaining just what Baker is up to here and why these books ultimately fail to be as sexy as Baker might wish.

From there the book moves on to the second essay, which explains just why Spaniard Javier Marías does right what Baker does wrong . . .


5 essays. 2 interviews.

All in all, over 25,000 words of Latin American literary goodness.

3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

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