Too Many Books

Emily loved to read. She read biographies and fantasy, cookbooks and science fiction, children’s books and the backs of cereal boxes. She read everywhere, except in the car when she started feeling carsick.   And sometimes even then.

Everyone that knew Emily knew that she loved to read. Most of them thought reading was a good thing.   Except maybe Grandma, who was always telling her, “Get your nose out of that book and go play outside.” But even Grandma, just like everyone else, was always giving Emily new books to read.

“I found this and thought of you,” Dad said, and gave Emily a dusty trilogy with yellowed pages. “It was mine when I was your age.”

“I picked these up at the store,” Mom said, and handed her a series of nine books. “They were half off, and the pictures on the covers looked nice.”

“The library at school was getting rid of damaged books, so I picked some up for you,” her brother said, handing her three plastic bags full of paperback books with torn covers and dog-eared pages. “Enjoy.”

People would give her lists of books to read, too. “Have you ever read this author,” the teacher said, rattling off a confusing, long name. “Let me write it down. You’d love her books, they remind me of you.”

“Here’s a list of the Newberry Award winners,” the librarian said. “You really shouldn’t miss any of those. And I think I have a list of children’s classics here somewhere.”

“Oh, do you like to read?” the woman in line at the grocery store said. “Let me tell you all about my son’s favorite books to read. They’re so funny.”

Of course, Emily had her own stacks and lists of books that she’d assembled for herself to read, too. And of course, there were lots and lots and lots of them. All total, there were far too many for Emily to ever read through, even though Emily could read very fast. And she just kept getting more books to read.

It was overwhelming. She’d look at her stacks of books and pick one up and feel guilty that she wasn’t reading this one over here or that one over there. And then she’d go and read the back of the cereal box again.

It didn’t help that people were asking things like, “Did you read that book I gave you? What did you think?” and “Wasn’t it the funniest at the end when he turned into a donkey? You did read it right?” and “I hope you liked the book. It meant so much to me when I was younger. I think it saved my life.”

Emily was maybe starting to not like reading as much.   She tried to skim through some of the books, but it wasn’t the same. It felt like the words were being thrown at her and she was having a hard time picturing the story in her head. She missed just reading whatever was nearby and having all sorts of new and unexpected adventures without any pressure.

So, Emily pulled the books off her bookshelf and started going through all her stacks of books. She sorted them into piles and sorted the piles into smaller piles. Some of the piles she put in bags and left them outside her door. Some of the piles were stacked against the back wall of her closet.

The rest fit just right onto her bookshelf. Emily picked one at random and flopped onto her beanbag chair. She opened the book to the first page and started reading. It was about rabbits, how interesting. She’d missed this.

“Emily,” her mom said later, “what happened to all your books?”

“I had to organize them,” Emily said. “I just had too many.”

“I thought you could never have too many books,” Mom said.   “It would be like having too much chocolate.”

“I’m not sure about chocolate,” Emily said, “but you can have too many books.”