Four years ago I posted here a photo of my study by way of illustration of a blog: http://www.philosophybytheway.blogspot.nl/2009/09/reading-book-makes-my-quiet.html. The walls of the room are full of books, as you can see; not only the one in the picture, but also the other walls. Once I have finished reading a book, I put it there. The books yet to be read have a special shelf. Books are the wall paper of my study, so to speak.
I have uploaded the photo of my study also to a social networking website. People there often ask me: Have you read all those books? Actually, I find it a bit a silly question. For why else should I have my books? Okay, I did not read the dictionaries and the atlases, for one doesn’t “read” such books but one uses them. But I have read my books insofar they have been published for reading in the normal sense. All of them? I must admit that the answer is “no”. Indeed, there are a few books that I didn’t read for some reasons, or I did only for a part. Why? Some had been so long on the waiting shelf that I wondered why I had ever bought them. Again and again I postponed reading them, because other books I had bought later looked more attractive and got a preferential treatment. Now I have solved the problem by reading books more or less in the order I have bought them: It has no sense to read a book ten years later when your interest has changed. Another reason why I sometimes postponed reading a book is that it looked so difficult to me that I found it better to read it with extra attention instead of reading it quickly and a bit superficially, as I often do. However, I did not make time for doing it and in the end the book came in the “Why had I ever bought it?” category. And there are also those books that I started to read but I found them so boring or incomprehensible or obscure that I put them aside before having finished reading them. Without a doubt there are other reasons why I didn’t read some books, but these are some of the most important. In fact, it didn’t happen so often so when asked “Have you read all those books?” I can honestly answer: “Yes, I did, or at least, say, 95% of them”.
Nevertheless, I always feel myself a bit ashamed when admitting that I haven’t read all, for in the end that’s why I bought them. But is this feeling right? Maybe my idea that books are there only for being read is too narrow minded. I got the idea that they can have other functions, too, when I read Arthur Schopenhauer’s preface to the first edition of his The World as Will and Representation, where he said:
“The reader … has bought the book for cash, and asks how he is to be indemnified. My last refuge is now to remind him that he knows how to make use of a book in several ways, without exactly reading it. It may fill a gap in his library as well as many another, where, neatly bound, it will certainly look well. Or he can lay it on the toilet-table or the tea-table of some learned lady friend. Or, finally, what certainly is best of all, and I specially advise it, he can review it.”