Confessions of a bibliophile: 1

Those of you who know me would know I love books. And those who have visited my house would know that I love being surrounded by them. Some of you may have read one of my earlier posts, “Books, oh books” about my fascination for books.

I love books, and I very often buy them. I have always had this “other love” in my life. Books. My wife reached this conclusion pretty early on in our married life and she would point this out to me with unfailing regularity, the moment she saw me returning home with a bagful of books. Till she realized that I was a compulsive buyer of books. And incorrigible. She sighed, and reconciled, God bless her. I have written earlier regarding my love for books and that I could not afford to buy books. I would borrow them from friends, from circulating libraries and from school or college libraries. And when I started earning, my salary liberated me- as it were- and I plunged into buying books.

Lest you think that I am a book-worm, let me tell you, I am not. I confess here, publicly, that I have read not even half of my collection. But show me a book-lover who has read all in his, and I will show you a liar!

This used to trouble me a bit. Not a bit actually, but hugely! Till an enlightened book-lover friend of mine told me: “I buy when I can, I read when I can”. And that took off from my conscience the load of guilt accumulated over the years! And now I have this stance: “Sure I have not read this book, but what the hell, I like what this book is about and I will read it one day”. And I often do. Many a time I have pulled out and read to the finish a book a bought five or six years ago. And I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

There are many books which I have not read cover-to-cover. Some half-way, some two-thirds. So what if I do not complete them, I know when to turn to these books depending on what I seek. You do not need to unload on your body the entire bottle of perfume to know what it is all about!

There is another aspect which a book-lover may encounter. Feeling guilty about exiting a book-store without making a purchase. I did. I would enter the bookshop, browse for hours and would feel “obliged” to buy a book or two. I felt guilty leaving without giving the store any business, and to part company with books I would come back to again-and-again in the hours spent at the shop. How could I not give any business to the shop and more importantly, how I could leave behind my objects of desire. So there I was queueing-up at the cash counter, pulling out my wallet and saying thank you to the cashier as he packed the purchases into a polythene bag.

Till someone- another book lover- told me that it was ok. It was alright to leave without buying a book. I put this maxim to practice. It was difficult the first few times, but then I got used to it. And it has been a breeze since then. I breeze into a book shop, exchange a few pleasantries with the book seller, browse and breeze out. Simple!


I had written in the earlier post:

Books brought you into a mystical communion with writers past and present. Books whose writers were not mere pen-pushers but confidants sharing life’s secrets and mysteries. A book was an entire package of life’s treasures and all its sensual goodness…..

Now that I think more, having books are like having great thinkers as friends. Great friends are those with whom you can spend hours with, turn to them in times of need, ask them for appropriate advice when needed. Great friends are non-demanding, they just stand around and let you be as you do your own thing. Friends with ages of wisdom, tons of good wishes, and- more importantly- always at hand. I wonder if you have realized that you may have a large circle of friends, you may consider them as great friends- which they indeed are- but you rarely turn to any of them at random in times of specific need. For example, if you have some issues with your better half, you may ask a select few. And these select few are different when you are besieged with problems at work, or with your finances, or with multiple such distinct issues clouding your life. Such is the case with books. All great friends, as I have just described, but each fulfilling a different need. Provided of course you know what to seek in a particular book, just like you know what to talk to a close friend about.

There is a small difference though. How many great friends you think you have? 4? 7? Ok, maybe 9! I would be surprised to hear a figure in double digits even with the most socially active people. And if you do think you have a large number of great friends, my humble recommendation is maybe you should start redefining for yourself what you mean by a great friend. On the other hand, you may have a large collection of books and each could be your great friend, in the manner listed above.

… be continued….

5 Responses to Confessions of a bibliophile: 1

  1. Manik Ghoshal says:

    My dear Santosh,
    Your latest blog on Books is particularly timely for me. I have bought more books than I can absorb within the last few months, most related to my field of interest -theology. Many of them were from, but also from other book sellers, including Kitab Bhavan of New Delhi where I sourced some rare Islamic books to try to get a clearer picture from their point of view. I have the full 8 volumes of ‘Sahih Bukhari’ too, printed in Saudi Arabia as a reference.
    Books are a wonderful source of knowledge and fantastic misinformation too. Some are shockingly unscientific. You might wonder why I am interested in all these religious books while being an atheist. I am trying my best to find out why people are so crazy about faith from a historic point of view. I have spent a couple of thousand £s on books probably over the last two years and my quest has not ended yet. I am not a book lover in particular, but I love the knowledge in them. Unfortunately I don’t live in an era when it is possible yet to down load books (knowledge) into the memory of our brain within a few minutes. In the future that may be possible, I believe! Then Sanyal Brothers would look very different with couches and electrodes and helmets hanging down from the roof.
    Here is a short list of just some of my recent purchases which you might find interesting. Some of the books may be banned in India for apeasement:-
    • Islamism and Democracy in India: The Transformation of Jamaat-e-Islami (Princeton Studies in Muslim Politics) by Irfan Ahmad
    • • Confession of a Buddhist Atheist by Stephen Batchelor
    • Buddhism Without Beliefs: A Contemporary Guide to Awakening By Stephen Batchelor
    • The Nature of the Gods (Classics) By Cicero, et al
    • The Letters of Pliny the Younger (Penguin Classics) The Younger Pliny, Betty Radice
    • Christianity Among the Arabs in Pre-Islamic Times (Arabic Islamic Studies) by J.Spencer Trimingham
    • Ancient Egyptian Roots of Christianity by Moustafa Gadalla
    • Josephus, the Essential Works: A Condensation of “Jewish Antiquities”, and, “the Jewish War” by Josephus, Paul L. Maier
    • The Five Gospels: What Did Jesus Really Say? the Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus by Robert Walter Funk, Roy W. Hoover
    • Introduction to Early History of Christian Doctrine by J.F.Bethune- Baker
    • Zen and the Kingdom of Heaven: Reflections on the Tradition of Meditation in Christianity and Zen Buddhism by Tom Chetwynd
    • The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh
    • Way of the Essenes: Christ’s Hidden Life Remembered by Anne Meurois-Givaudan, Daniel Meurois-Givaudan
    • Jesus and the Essenes by Dolores Cannon
    • When Jesus Became God: The Struggle to Define Christianity During the Last Days of Rome by Richard E. Rubenstein, Michelle Brook
    • The Nag Hammadi Library in English by James Robinson
    • Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew by Bart D. Ehrman
    • The Hermetica: Lost Wisdom of the Pharaohs by Timothy Freke, Peter Gandy
    • The Mysteries of Mithras: The Pagan Belief That Shaped the Christian World by Payam Nabarz
    • The Perfect Heresy: The Life and Death of the Cathars by Stephen O’Shea
    • The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
    • Sunlight and Shadow: The Jewish Experience of Islam (Cultural Studies (Other)) by Lucien Gubbay
    • Gods, Sages and Kings: Vedic Secrets of Ancient Civilization by David Frawley
    • The Pox of Mohammed by Dane Dahl
    • The Selfish Gene: 30th Anniversary edition by Richard Dawkins
    • Supercontinent: 10 Billion Years in the Life of Our Planet by Ted Nield
    • Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters by Donald R. Prothero, Carl Buell

    • God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens
    • Why Evolution is True by Jerry A. Coyne
    • Your Inner Fish: The Amazing Discovery of Our 375-Million-Year-Old Ancestor by Neil Shubin
    • Supercontinent: 10 Billion Years in the Life of Our Planet by Ted Nield
    • Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters by Donald R. Prothero, Carl Buell
    • The Gabriel Club by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya
    • The Life of Muhammad by I. Ishaq, A. Guillaume
    • The Truth about Muhammad: Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion…
    • The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims by Andrew G. Bostom
    • Londonistan [UPDATED EDITION WITH NEW FOREWORD]: How Britain Has Created a Terror State Within: How Britain Is Creating a Terror State Within by Melanie Phillips

  2. squarecutatul says:

    Your book buying habits (buying books with the intention of reading them some day) applies to me as well. In my case, my wife does not waste any time telling me that I hardly read the books that I buy. But I know that when I need to buy these books some day, those books may no longer be accessible at that time.

    Finding that other compulsive book buyers are in the same boat reassures me that I am not abnormal.

  3. Anshu Tandon says:

    Santosh, you spend money to create wealth. All of us indulge in former but only a lucky few can do the later.
    All man tend to lie about their height, weight, the number of contacts stored on their mobile and the girl friend that they are not supposed to have but apparently have tucked away 30 mins flight away.
    But in today’s age of impending 3G mobility few of us claim to buy books and then not to have read them.
    That’s height of personal integrity and being old fashioned.
    You must be getting on in years.

  4. yayaver says:

    “But show me a book-lover who has read all in his, and I will show you a liar! ” What a line, marvellous.

    Feeling guilty about exiting a book-store without making a purchase… same for me. I feel more comfortable in libraray or book store than home. So good to hear from another book lover.

  5. alok says:

    there’s a man called barry john. he is a theatre director who used to live in delhi; he now runs an acting school in mumbai.
    when i first met him in delhi, he used to live in a barsaati in jangpura extn. that one room had books stacked along all the four walls – i cannot estimate how many there were. i asked him how many of those books he had read and he replied that he had read them all.

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