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Beyond merely flaunting books

Books are meant to be read, not merely displayed; books gathering dust is a pity.

People who buy books just to flaunt them irritate me beyond words. There are genuine bibliophiles who love to read and discuss what they have read. But there are also pseudo-bibliophiles, who buy books, never to read them.

The moment a new book arrives, these pretenders will pick it up just to show that they are abreast of all new titles hitting the stands and bookstores. They boastfully showcase the books and you can safely hazard a guess by just having a look at their covers that the buyer hasn’t read them. Many a time, un-separated pages directly from the press, remain in the same state, divulging the lie.

Agreed, a book’s shining appearance looks good to the eyes. But it should be read, and in the process of reading it invariably loses its pristine shine and gloss. A well-thumbed (but certainly not with the pages torn) book has its own beauty and charm. The more you use a book, the more it attracts readers. In libraries, true-blue discerning readers often pick up those books, which have lost their shine. The books that retain their glossiness even after a considerable period, aren’t great books. No offence meant to those who showcase their rich collection of books at home, but it has been my experience that very few of them really read all the books that they display at home for guests.

There is a Spanish proverb that says, those who keep buying books have little time to read them. Buy books but read them. When books are used as yardsticks just to show one’s elitism, reading loses all its purpose. It is far better to buy just one book once in a while and read that from beginning to end instead of buying a slew of books and never reading them.

After all, books are meant to be read, not merely to be displayed. Having a private library is a great thing, but books gathering dust for want of readers is an insult to them. British humorist Ogden Nash wrote: “Books on the racks cry to be read/ Alas, ‘readers’ take them home and they are dead.”

Yes, an unread book is a dead book. If you have bought a book, it’s incumbent upon you to read it as well.

Buying a book and leaving it unread is like holding a goblet but not quaffing the wine in it. You can say it’s like having the cake but not eating it. It’s sadistically unfaithful on the part of a reader to spurn a book without reading it.

The legendary Urdu poet Dr. Raghupati Sahay ‘Firaq’ Gorakhpuri had more than 6,000 books at home. He would religiously read almost all of them several times and discuss at length every tome he had. Maharashtrian scholar and historian Setu Madhavrao Pagdi would pick up a book and finish it in one go. He would read a minimum two fat books every day till he died! Osho Rajneesh would thoroughly read a new book each day. Nelson Mandela only asked for books and a pair of sleepers at Robben Island, where he was imprisoned for 27 years. Napoleon Bonaparte, had he not been a soldier, would have been world’s greatest statesman. He continued to read till the end with cataract in his left eye. George Washington, the first President of the United States, wouldn’t go to bed without reading a book. Mark Twain was a voracious reader. He not only read every book, he made it a point to make notes out of the book and jot down in his diary points for quick and handy reference.

This is what we call love for reading and fondness for books. These greats never flaunted their books. Rather, they imbibed the spirit of every book they read so thoughtfully and also lovingly. And that matters the most!

sumitmaclean@hotmail.com

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Printable version | Mar 29, 2020 3:33:57 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/Beyond-merely-flaunting-books/article14558800.ece

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