Warning: A slightly pretentious, completely bookish column

November 15th, 2012

We all have goals in life. Your goal could be to make enough money to retire at 50 and travel the world. Maybe your goal is to marry rich and write a romance novel. And maybe your goal is just to make it through the next week alive.

I don’t like setting goals. Five-year plans have never really been my thing. I don’t know how I’m going to get through the next few days, let alone the next few years. When it comes to the future, there is only one thing I am certain of, and that is that I will one day have a library of my own within my house.

For years, I have been collecting books in preparation for my one-day library. I get most of them second-hand from bookstores around home. Sometimes I order them off of Amazon. Sometimes I would nick them off of my high school English teachers when they weren’t looking.

I know what you’re thinking, and no, I have never stolen a book from the library; although when I realized that they had a first edition copy of “For Whom The Bell Tolls,” I almost never returned it. Luckily for the librarians I do have a conscience, and I am also te3rrified of the librarians at Spring Lake Public Library (I don’t know why; it’s an irrational fear, but I’ve never liked librarians, mostly because I always have fines).

I have two bookshelves in my room, and even those are starting to over-flow. I have books in boxes under my bed. I have them packed away in the basement. I always tell myself that I am going to stop buying books, but then I see one that is so tempting that I just can’t help myself. Borrowing them from the library doesn’t have the same appeal.

As nerdy and bookish as I know this sounds, I take a disgusting amount of pride in my collection. But there are some books that I value more than others: some of them because of the content of the books, some of them because of how I acquired them and some of them just because they are beautiful editions (I’m sorry, but to some extent, I do judge a book by its cover).

To date, I have snagged five books from one of my high school English teachers (who, in case he ever reads this, shall remain nameless, although I’m sure he knows who he is). I like to refer to them as “permanently borrowed.” The crown jewel of these five is a novel by Marcus Zusak called “The Book Thief.” Not only is it a phenomenal book (you should all read it), but I like telling people that I “stole” my copy of “The Book Thief.” The irony is just too good to pass up.

Another book that stands out from the rest is my copy of “East of Eden,” by John Steinbeck. This book stands out not because it is a first edition, or because I stole it off of a moving truck, or my best friend’s bookshelf. No, this book stands out simply because it exists.

Now, I’m sure that some of you out there have a personal vendetta against John Steinbeck because “he wrote ‘Grapes of Wrath’ and I read that in high school and I hated it.” If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times. Don’t mind me while I hop up on my soapbox, but I personally feel that “East of Eden” is Steinbeck’s crowning glory. The book explores the nature of what it means to be human, the nature of good and evil and the eternal struggle between the two that occurs in the heart of man, and it does it in the most beautiful way. It’s one of those books that I think everyone should read. I always feel a little lost without a copy of “East of Eden” to turn to every once in a while.

Another thing I really like about it is that when I read it, the ink rubs off on my fingers and I walk around all day with bits of “East of Eden” printed on my hands.

By this point, I have built up a nice collection of Salinger. Actually, every major work he’s ever published, I have it. A battered copy of “Franny and Zooey” is my favorite. Although we’ve all had to read it for some English class, “The Catcher in the Rye” certainly isn’t the best Salinger, in my opinion.

So, I value certain books above others, but all the books are important to me. Somehow they have imparted upon me wisdom, knowledge or understanding that no one else has been able to. I am in debt to hundreds of authors.

And that is why one day I will have my own library. And when the world starts to make me weary, I will retreat there, because, in the words of the author Jorge Luis Borges, “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”