I’m a book lover. I read all the time. Nobody loves book reading more than I do. So writing this little piece about how useless books can be is already hard.
You’re probably wondering how a book can be useless. Each one is bound to be a “treasure” to somebody. But that value is fleeting for most books.
I mean some books, call them classics or reference books or library staples, are so rich with value and promise that they get read time and again by the same person. But most books have a limited “shelf-life.” At least when it comes to a given person’s shelf.
If I move a book that I’ve read, and won’t read again, from my shelf to another person’s shelf, it’s value instantly goes from zero to treasure. The book that was just taking up space in my life is now fraught with possibilities and promise in someone else’s.
In fact a book’s enduring value in some ways is not about what’s in it. It’s that whatever is in it can be enjoyed by a string of positively impacted readers. That string starts with the author generously sharing life’s insights with me and, so long as I don’t SIT on the book after I’m finished, that string can virtually go on forever…or until the book falls apart.
Backpacking around Europe and the middle east a zillion years ago, everybody I encountered was carrying one book. Book swapping was a way of life. Nobody needed a bookshelf. They just needed other readers who were finished with theirs about the same time that I was finished with mine. A new book, bent and stained and wrinkled as it was, was a joy to me. It paralleled the joys of touring new places and meeting new people.
Given my stance here, the bookshelf shown here is merely an ornament for the books’ owners. They might as well be painted on the wall. But if those books were shared with others, not only could the owners paint something better on their wall. They could enrich the lives of thousands of people.
We’ve finished a book. We loved it. Now what?
We’ve gotta share books if they are to achieve their fullest meaning and value for us.