The worst thing about new books is that they keep us from reading the old ones:

The worst thing about new books is that they keep us from reading the old ones:

J. Joubert

Book buying is a passion. Academicians and students love to buy books. They have a natural propensity towards book buying. Whether we read them or not, we do buy them. In English there are specific words to define specific kinds of book lovers. Bibliophile is a person who loves books. Bibliobibuli is a person who reads a lot of books. This term was coined in 1957 by H.L. Mencken.
I am myself a book lover. My love for books started when I for the first time entered the well-equipped and enlightening Research Division of Maulana Azad Library in Aligarh Muslim University in 2014 to start my research work. It was love at first sight. As I saw the stacks and stacks of books related to every discipline, I was impressed beyond measure. That very experience enhanced my interest in books. I now buy a lot of books from both book stores and kiosks. I not only read books but also enjoy the smell of books. In a word, I have bibliosmia.
Whenever I feel sad or depressed because of worldly cares, I look at the books in my personal library. Their mere sight is enough to drive away the care and sadness from my mind and heart. Books are the best friends. We should befriend them, love them, and laud them. A human friend can cheat and desert us but a friend in the form of a book will never do so. Friendship with books is everlasting and always comforting. Books teach us that which nobody can.
We have people who have a habit of buying books but not reading them. They pile them up and leave them on the shelf without reading. This habit of buying books and leaving them without reading is known as ‘Tsundoku’. This term has a Japanese origin. With the smart phone influx and digital revolution, book reading culture has diminished. When there were no smart phones people used to read books with a lot of interest and concentration. Books were the sole source of entertainment for many. But now books have been replaced by virtual games and online reading. The result of this has led to poorer memories. Whatever we read online leaves no lasting impression on our mind. Nothing can replace the physical book. Holding a book in the hands and reading with concentration leaves an indelible impression on our memories.
Social media apps and online games are like a death knell for our book reading habit and volition. Old people still read books but what after them? At AMU, I saw in the spacious hall of the Research Division (RD) of Maulna Azad Library that elderly citizens and professors were always engrossed in reading books. In comparison to them, the young scholars banked more on online reading. These days online reading is a fashion. It has its benefits but not so many as real books. Reading a book in hard bound is beyond compare to reading a book on a screen.
We should buy books but not just to stuff them in shelves. We should extract knowledge out of the books as they are store houses of knowledge. We should not only read subject specific books but also books intended for a general readership. We should make ourselves catholic in taste.
Buying books and piling them up without reading can lead to intellectual inertia. In this regard, James Russel Lowell wrote, “Books are the bees which carry the quickening pollen from one to another mind”. We should try to attain this quickening pollen by reading a book thoroughly and with interest. We should shun the ‘Tsundoku’ habit. Instead, we should be bibliobibuli.

Post script: Books are like imprisoned souls till someone takes them down from a shelf and frees them. Samuel Butler

The writer is a Research Scholar at Department of English, AMU. [email protected]

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