Wednesday, January 31, 2007

THE LOOMING BOOK TOWER

After some scary experiences with my blogger dashboard disappearing, I discovered the simple solution; log in using the correct account name...

One of the most valuable lessons I learnt from this trip to India was an invaluable back-of-the-envelope calculation that my father did for me, that reminded me of the cute Fermi problems which the great physicist was famous for solving. Essentially the calculation revolved around Why I Should Not Buy Any More New Books.

Let's say I own 100 books (a ludicrous underestimate)
Let's say each one has 300 pages on average (another fatuous miscalculation)
Let's say my 'reading life' extends for another 30 years (plausible if not certain)

30 years, 30,000 pages...boils down to 1000 pages per year, which is roughly 3 pages per day of old and existing books.

The italicised and underlined last phrase is key: most of the times, we spend time reading new books, not old ones. In addition, I am constantly surprised by the fact that when I promptly buy a book because I have been bowled over by it, curiously, I almost never end up reading it in the next one year, and certainly not with the same enthusiasm. A good prescription might be to not read a book for two years, and then decide whether to buy it or not based on the level of enthusiasm you still possess.

So I have decided that for now, at least until I am an impecunious graduate student, I am not going to actually buy new books from Amazon.com, unless they are desperately needed technical books that the library does not have.

Several benefits emphatically exist:
1. I save money (trivial point which sometimes annoyingly turns crucial)
2. I don't end up paying 1000$ for moving charges when I leave this city after I finish up
3. I do the library a great service (they have already told me that I am their hottest customer- unfortunately only in a bibliophilic sense)

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4 Comments:

Blogger Krishna said...

I don't actually buy so many books. But I do check out books from the library rather indiscriminately. The lack of "cost" means I end up checking out every book I come across while reading other books or articles or blogs, listening to radio, talking to friends. On average I check out three to four books every week. I have several "book towers" on my table which often cause remark.

Of course I face the same problem of sustaining the interest. A certain book (say, this book, whose author appeared today on the Dian Rehm show) seems very interesting when I first hear about it. But then a couple of days later I have the book, but no more interest, not least because there are already couple of new books which caught my interest.

Recently I decided to bring strict order into checking out books which will hopefully increase the read/checked out ratio.

11:10 AM  
Blogger Sumedha said...

Somehow, I've never been an enthusiastic book buyer; I spent most of my childhood reading my parents' books. I'm not much of an 'explorer' in general, so I don't hunt for new and original works; my friends do the hunting. (for example, you brought a couple of great books to my notice!)
Also, unless I've read a good novel(only fiction) at least three times, I don't feel like I've done it justice :)
This rule does not apply to non-fiction...

11:12 AM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...

Krishna: I can understand. Once I issued 150 books from the university library, and my back had a tough time ferrying them back. So just like you, I have not set limits on checking books out. One of the strategies, as hard as it sounds, is to simply stay away from the library, so that you are not tempted to issue new volumes. My book tower being high enough, I need to stop for now.

Sumedha: I wish I were like you! Unfortunately, I am too impulsive, and have bought many books which I wonder when I will read.
About fiction books, I understand what you are saying. Maybe that's why I am more into non-fiction, otherwise I would have had an even harder time staying away!

12:18 PM  
Anonymous Aaman Lamba said...

Hi,

I couldn't find an email, so leaving a comment. I'm the publisher of Desicritics.org, a leading online source of news and opinion on all things South Asian. I'd like to invite you to write for Desicritics. Please let me know and I'll set you up, etc.

Aaman Lamba (aamanlamba at gmail)

2:46 AM  

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