How do you like my recent haul from the Singapore library?
I went to the library to return one book. And this is what I returned with. Full disclosure – this is only part of my haul from my most recent library visit.
When it comes to food, I practise moderation. Actually, I practise moderation with most things, whether that involves spending my money, energy or even my emotions. Yet, when it comes to a visit to the Jurong Regional library, moderation flies out the window. I always end up picking up more books than I can read in a reasonable time frame, more books to add to my pile of unread books and more books than I can even accommodate on my bookshelves. The only limitation to my book greed is the weight of the pile that I can carry home without keeling over.
It’s not my fault. I completely blame the fabulous collection of the Singapore library system.
Where do you get your book recommendations from and how do you track it?
Book recommendations come into my consciousness from various sources. While I do browse through bestselling lists, I seldom buy those. Books that have won awards, specially when it comes to Indian writers winning international awards, I have been disappointed too many times to prioritize those titles.
The sources I trust most are real people – whether they drop names of books in face to face or virtual conversations. Why? Because I can ask further questions.
- What is the book about?
- Why did you like it?
- How did you come across this book?
Lately I have also been paying attention to books that people I like feature in their Instagram posts and stories. The most reliable source however, has been reading groups on Facebook. Consisting exclusively of serious and avid readers, book posts and reviews are always well thought out and nicely written. Of course, I do go through bookish articles in the newspaper, skim some tweets and read a handful of email newsletters.
Another source of book recommendations are other books. Since I read a lot of non-fiction, many authors quote or reference other authors and books. I love going down that rabbithole. Of course, the trail usually leads to older and perhaps rare books, but some of them are not just classics but real treasures.
Tracking recommendations is harder. My system is a haphazard list of book titles that I have written down somewhere, usually on my phone. I make sure I write down the names of books that come recommended by multiple people.
When I’m in a reading slump,I go back to stored lists and work my way down. However, I strongly feel that the book I need to read usually shows up in my path one way or the other. Sometimes it is at the bottom of my list yet jumps ahead to the top, insisting I read it. Right NOW.
Similarly, when I visit the library I have a strange habit of looking at books in the same stack as the one which houses the book in my list.
This is how serendipity works for me. As far as books are concerned, I run in the opposite direction from moderation.
The non-minimalist approach to books
A few years ago, the queen of decluttering, Marie Kondo got into trouble with booklovers when she suggested decluttering bookshelves by applying her highly popular technique of picking up a book and sensing whether it ‘sparked joy’ before deciding whether to keep it or offload it. I totally understand the backlash she received.
Last month when I was making a slow recovery from Covid-19 infection, I decided to declutter areas of my home. I was quite successful with my clothes, old documents, even email inboxes, yet the one area that was off-limits – my books.
On my last visit to the library, I kept picking up books knowing that my bag could not possibly be able to handle them all. It was painful to put some of them away.
Even if I did bring them home, I knew I could not read them simultaneously.
Then why collect so many?
Because books make me happy. Having access to books makes me happy.
Knowing that I will always have more books in my possession (even if it is temporary) than time to read it, makes me feel immortal, instead of impatient.
I don’t always read all the books I bring. I don’t always finish the books I begin reading.
But there are times when a book makes its way serendipitously into my bag and I end up relishing it – I read and reread sentences, I write down some quotes, and I revisit them when needed.
You never know what gem will be hiding in which book. Better to not risk leaving it in the library for someone else to find.
I know booklovers will understand.
Books are treasures and life is so much richer when we have such priceless pieces within reach.
Don’t you agree?
How do you cherish your books? Your reading habit?