Books as conduits for meaning

Seeing someone readinig a book you love is seeing a book recommending a person
Seeing someone readinig a book you love is seeing a book recommending a person

We have some books. And by some, I mean many.

To us, we don’t seem to have many books. Certainly nothing near enough. (Enough books. Like that’s a thing!)

We have significantly fewer books than a few people we know (my in-laws, for instance. And libraries). But we have more books than everyone else we know – especially now that Aunty Em is staying with us for a while.

What we are truly short of is bookshelves. (Aren’t we all?)

So, to the point of today’s ramble. Friends of ours are hosting a Geeks Sell Books For Charity event. At this event, you bring al your surplus*  books and sell them. Then you can either give the money you make from the sale to charity, or keep it (if you nominate yourself as your charity, say. And you don’t mind being a bit of a tool. After all, charity does start at home, right?)

Last night we got to chatting about this charity sale, wondering which books we could donate. Or at least convert into cash. (We need chocolate, people!) Yeah, the answer is none.

As Papa Bear said, “We don’t sell books.”

No. No we don’t.

The thing is, if I dislike a book enough to want to be rid of it, do I really want to inflict it on someone else? Worse, do I actually expect that poor, unsuspecting soul to pay for the privilege of reading my cast offs? Hmm … I don’t think so.

The problem with being something of a technophiliac hippie is that I have a conflicted relationship with books (and everything else). I mean, I love books. I love the smell of them, the feel of them, the sound they make as you turn the pages. I love to read. I love to read to my children, and I love the sound of people reading. I love the sight of people reading, too. A book seems to represent all that is good and pure and perfect in the world. A wealth of fantasy and escape and learning and growth and experience wait between its covers. A book represents all that is right with mankind: love and passion and connection and sharing of knowledge and experiences and ideas. A book offers the opportunity to immerse yourself into another person’s world and understand how he or she sees things … and maybe even update your own philosophy a little bit.


A book also represents so much of what is wrong with the world. Vast swathes of forest being cultivated purely for the pleasure of others, rather than being left alone to house small, defenceless animals and offer us a pristine space for adventure. Because of books, rainforests are destroyed, animals are wiped out by the species-load, and native peoples are forced into the 21st century – or extinction. The philosophical shrinking of the planet has led to an obliteration of diversity on every level: we have fewer species of everything, and the ones we do have bear more resemblance to one another than ever before. We share knowledge, but now we also share heritage and culture. And while there are many wonderful things to be said for that (like how great it is that we’re starting to realise just how similar we all really are), there’s also the tragic loss of ancient cultures to be accounted for – things we can never get back.

I love that I can read a book and afterwards I can truly imagine what it would be like to have been an 18th  century Inuit male about to come of age. That’s something I could never comprehend any other way. But I do kinda hate  that it cost an Amazonian tribe dweller his home in the 21st century (probably). It would be easier to be passionate about stuff that’s not mutually exclusive, right?!

What we really need is a return to the oral tradition: gathering around a fire, telling stories … oh wait. Fires cost trees, too, don’t they. Darn it.

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