I collect books.
When I buy classics or painstakingly compile an entire series, I’m strangely aware that I’m doing it not only for myself , but also for my children who will read these books someday.
Of course, these are children I havent had nor have any intention of having just yet.
Maybe this feeling is a reflection of my own experiences having grown up reading books taken off my father’s and grandfather’s bookshelves. I honestly cant imagine what I would have been like if those books had not been around.
I was drawn to my fathers books during the early years, living in a remote corner of Africa where we didnt have much else for entertainment. Apparently I was flipping through the likes of Roots and Doctor Zhivago when I was barely six years old, though only being allowed to read them in my early teens.
Similarly, fondest memories I have of my grandfather revolve around long mornings spent in his huge attic – a beautiful wooden one with stained glass skylights – going through dusty boxes and cupboards full of books where he would choose what was good for me to read. In that attic I was introduced to everything from Shakespeare to Enid Blyton to Martin Wickramasinghe.
Another funny thing about our family was that we were almost never given anything but books for gifts. Other kids got toys, we got books. It was frustrating sometimes when for your birthday all you wanted was a Meccano Set but all you got was a bunch of boring classics. A fact that I’m very thankful for in retrospect.
I have only a precious few left of all these books because we also believed in passing them on to other people. But now with so much access to books in stores and online, I find myself hunting for the same books I read growing up. And I justify it to myself thinking ‘someday my children really must read this book’.
However considering the books collected thus far, it would certainly help if I have a daughter someday or else there might be a very unhappy little boy being forced to read the Anne series.
Update: 7 years later, I do have a daughter. Phew!