Confessions of a recovering book hoarder

Over the years I have collected a number of books which are now housed on a couple of overcrowded shelves in my bedroom, gathering dust for the most part.

I have read many of these books cover to cover as they are the kind of light-hearted material which I find easy to devour – memoirs or essays from Nora Ephron, David Sedaris, Mindy Kaling, Diane Keaton, Hadley Freeman and Lena Dunham. These are books that read as if you could be having a long one-sided conversation with a friend who absolutely loves to talk and who you are more than happy to devote your full attention to. You finish them almost as quickly as you started them and feel a sense of sadness when they are over because they became a part of your life for a short period of time.

Then there are the books that I bought with good intentions to read one day and which have laid on my shelves largely untouched, potentially for years, because they are not easy reads, but have more complexity in the ideas discussed and the topics covered. Books like The End Of Poverty and the Female Eunuch fall into that camp.

The reason I have accumulated so many books is I love going to bookstores and browsing for a long, long while, hopping from one interesting book to another and inevitably coming across something I want to buy with the greatest intentions of reading it.

When I was on holiday last week I finally finished reading The Marriage Plot – almost a year after I started it! Avid readers would recoil in horror at this delay but reading has not been at the top of my list of leisure activities recently and holidays are often the only time I dedicate solid time to it.

While on holiday I remembered what a treat it is to get fully engrossed in a book and in the world that is wonderfully visualised on its pages. It may not always be on the top of my list of things to do but I’d like to dedicate more time to this pursuit in order to branch out and broaden my leisure activities.

I have counted that I have eight books on my shelves which I have started and are at various stages on being read. In the interest of putting a stop to this bad habit and to prevent my bookshelves from buckling under the weight of too many unread books I am not going to allow myself to buy any more books prior to finishing the ones on my shelves.

This means I need to get busy with reading and look at gradually finishing each of the books that are partially read. After this I think it would be a good time to look at de-cluttering that space and donating the books I don’t need to own which is all aligned with my recent minimalist goals.

It’s time to get reading!

OK Google

Google. My foe and my trusted friend. Only because when your mind is all over the place and you have a question, any question at all, you can ask Google and you WILL get an answer. And yet the next question must always be, is that answer helpful? Or has it opened another can of worms?

I can and have spent hours Googling random things. Very specific questions about ailments I think I have, relationship dramas I am in the middle of, where I want to eat dinner that day. What floors me is that no matter how specific the question or theme of my search is, someone is guaranteed to have answered it, somewhere in the vast wilderness that is the internet.

“Reese’s Cups addiction cure” once brought up a brilliant video from Youtube with a woman in therapy for an addiction to peanut butter products. I watched this video with intense concentration, nodding in agreement at her inner turmoil as she described her lack of self control when faced with homemade peanut butter fudge.

“Pins and needles sensation caused by fibromyalgia” came up with the goods when I was convinced that I was starting to see signs of developing fibromyalgia, a condition my dad has had for over 30 years. Needless to say the sensation went away after a few days, leading me to determine that it was probably caused by a stress episode rather than anything decidedly more serious (then again most of my ailments are caused by stress episodes which is probably something I need to look into).

Why are we so compelled to Google every little question and issue we have? I guess we are all curious beings to some extent and are also eager to see how others have handled the problems we are facing. There is comfort in knowing that someone else has issues with pulsating veins, or Reese’s addiction or the exact same dramas you’ve had with your boyfriend. You can create your own little support group, weaved together through online forums, videos and articles. I’ve never seen a therapist but I think Google has been my shrink over the years, my shoulder to cry on, a listening ear when I needed it the most. Sometimes all you need to get over your most ridiculous fears is a furiously intense Googling session.

But what on earth did we do before the internet? Did we just have thoughts and questions with nowhere to turn to? Mull them over and over again within our minds? Or did we just talk to our loved ones more about our issues? When I was much younger I remember consulting seemingly ancient resources like the massive volumes of Encyclopedia Britannica at the local library and the Microsoft Encarta CD-ROM whenever I had a question or needed to find information for a school assignment. I had to search into the depths of my memory to even remember either of those things, but they were all we had as kids of the 90s before the Internet became widespread.

I love the idea of reading and researching more but in this era of instant gratification it is hard to imagine waiting to get to a library to find an answer to a burning question. According to Fast Company, that may be a problem. Scientists have found that our incessant Googling may actually be having a negative impact on us, making us lazy and hindering the natural connections that are made when our curiosity is fuelled more organically through books and by consulting with others.

Perhaps it’s worth letting your natural curiosity develop by seeking answers elsewhere. But that takes patience and perseverance and I can’t promise that my curiosity won’t lead me straight back to where I started…Google.