I have a problem. I hoard books. I buy new ones even when I have a horrendous amount of books to read at home. I don’t ‘need’ as many books as I have, if I’m being honest with myself. I’ve become the Smaug of the Book World and I don’t think I want to be this way anymore.
My book buying habits recently have been quite greedy. Reading The Hobbit put my problem into even greater focus for me. In The Hobbit, Smaug has taken up residence in the Lonely Mountain. There he guards a mighty hoard of treasures, stolen mostly from the dwarves, but also from other nearby inhabitants.
Smaug knows every inch of his treasure to the extent that when Bilbo manages to steal just one piece of this massive hoard Smaug can tell. Smaug doesn’t necessarily need all that treasure. For instance, there are golden instruments that he cannot play and has no interest in valuing for their practical properties. He’s not really using his treasure and he doesn’t care much for the history of some of it. But he does, in his own way, need all of it, if you get what I mean. There is a part of his brain that has an almost illogical obsession with hoarding these treasures. I know that feeling. I own a lot of books that I haven’t read, and some that I may never read. But if I’m rearranging my shelves and can’t find one that I know should be there I get frustrated and stressed until I track it down.
I’m not good at giving books away either, or sharing them for that matter (I always worry that they won’t be returned). So I suppose I’m quite possessive of my books. Smaug, too, had no intention of sharing his treasure with the men, elves or dwarves. He never heard of anyone’s hardship and thought about sharing his hoard to help out.
Working at a bookshop worsened my condition. I was around the books all the time and I had a 50% discount card burning in my pocket. My time with access to that card was limited. I suddenly started buying books like crazy. Books I didn’t necessarily need, but I felt like I needed them at the time. I guess the bookstore had the same effect on me as dragon sickness does on Thorin. My mind was somehow warped into something a little bit ugly.
Mind you, I would never burn things or kill people for books in the way Smaug did for his gold. However I did eye up books in the shop and hope they wouldn’t sell so I could nab them at half price. That behaviour was a by-product of my selfishness and greed, I think. I wanted the books and kind of didn’t want somebody else to have them. That line of thought would not seem strange or outlandish to Smaug if I was discussing treasure.
The healthy option moving forward would be for me to go on a book buying ban for a while, and yet I have books on pre-order that I don’t want to let go of. Recovering from this sickness is going to be hard.
I have so many books to read at home, so many worlds to explore and characters to meet. I don’t need to own and possess every interesting book in the world right at this moment. I need to return to the ones I already have as a priority otherwise I’m going to fall into the trap of just buying books for the sake of possessing them, and not for the sake of truly enjoying them.