This morning, I took upon myself the onerous task of cleaning my book shelf. Mine, I say possessively, though it was a gift for our wedding from our friends. Mine, I say possessively, because anything books is always mine. My favourite bookmark, my favourite bookshop, my favourite reviewer, my favourite recommender of books, my favourite books all of them. Almost. There is a bunch of non fiction across those racks I will never claim to be mine. Not over my dead body. Those are V’s.
As I cleaned the racks, a lot of dust got raked up. Literally. But, figuratively too. The P. G. Wodehouse omnibuses beckoning me to drop everything and start reading immediately. The Vikram Seths wondering where I had absconded for so long. The always dependable Jeffrey Archers smiling as if to say, “I knew you will come back to me.” That random book about Marie Antoinette I had picked up at a bookshop in Paris asking me how I felt about history now that I had read another take on the woman who famously said, “Let them eat cake” (apparently, she didn’t, as per this book). A customised book my colleagues at EY had gifted me on my last day, reminding me of happy days, great memories. A travel diary I had filled up while tripping across Eastern Europe sparking memories of a cute and cosy hostel room and a very dear friend. The first ABC book I had got for my kid telling me how far she has come, reading through pages of the Monkey Puzzle and the Pout Pout Fish.
Books are like pensieves. Once you look down a book, you won’t know what memory might draw you in, spawning a hundred other related thoughts.
What today’s clean(s)ing experience gave me is also a lot of clarity. I think I have known this forever but never acknowledged - the Kindle can never replace a book. Never have I opened my list of books on a Kindle and felt a pensieve drawing me in. Never have those books on the Kindle beckoned me with outstretched hands saying, “drop everything you are doing right now and lose yourself in the scent of my pages.”
I know what I will do when I grow up and grow old and have a lot of money and a room of my own. A huge bookshelf with hard copies (preferably hard bounded copies) of all those books I would have read on the kindle by then. Only point to note - it will be a covered bookshelf (with glass doors) so I don’t ever have to do deep cleaning of books again, only enjoy looking at them all day long.