Can Books Become a Burden?

Last week I was at the Together for the Gospel 2012 conference. While there, I listened to some wonderful exposition of the Scriptures, enjoyed some terrific conversations with friends old and new, and, of course, received a TON of books.

For attending the conference, I received all these:

As an attendee at Band of Bloggers, I also received this pile:

The Band of Bloggers book pile

A photo posted by Aaron Armstrong (@aaronstrongarm) on

(On top of these, I also purchased four or five small books.)

When I shared these pictures on Twitter last week, I was asked a great question: “At what point do the gift books go from blessing to burden?”

While carting the things home can be an issue (particularly for those flying), that part doesn’t bother me too much. Having given the question some thought over the last few days, I hopefully have come to some sort of conclusion on the matter.

There are two ways that gift books can become a burden rather than a blessing for me. The first is when I can’t find a home for them. There are currently twenty-some odd books sitting on my coffee table, for which I am trying to figure out a home (either on my bookshelves or other people’s). I gave my friend Brad my copy of The Explicit Gospel (since I already have it), and am giving my office copies of What is the Mission of the Church? and Gospel (again, since I have these and don’t need duplicates). Inevitably, I’ll end up giving away a number of the remaining books to friends nearby, either because of time constraints or lack of interest in the content. Lord willing, the pile won’t be on my coffee table too much longer (something that will cause my wife to rejoice).

The other way is the prideful desire to keep them all—even if I’m not going to read the darn things. It’s probably the most ridiculous thing to have this feeling over, but there’s something really, really nice about having a “big” library of books. It feels good when people come over and see all the books on the shelves in the living room and are impressed. “Those are all your books?” they sometimes say, to which it’s awfully tempting to reply, “Actually, there’s another shelf in the basement. And another one upstairs…”

(Pride and logic are often ships passing in the night.)

Part of the way that I fight this is by giving them away and periodically trying to purge my shelves of books I’m either never going to read or have such little permanent value that there’s no point in keeping them. (And again, this causes my wife to rejoice.)

If I didn’t have a way to get rid of the books I’m not going to read, I’m sure it would feel like more of a burden to me.

What about you? At what point do gift books become more of a burden than a blessing (if at all)?

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  • http://www.mhmcintyre.us/ Mark McIntyre

    We go through periodic purges of books. I will only keep a book if I will read it or re-read it or am sure I will need it in the future. There have been a couple of occasions that I regretted getting rid of a particular book, but those regrets are more than made-up for by the reduction in clutter.

  • http://twitter.com/peterwalters64 Peter Walters

    Books become a burden for me when some asks me to read a book and give them my opinion of it.  It will usually have something to do with God putting gold dust in the pages of the person’s bible or giving them gold teeth to replace their silver fillings:)  

  • Doug

    I mostly agree with your comments. Your wife and my wife must be from the same mold. After buying me a fourth floor-to-ceiling bookshelf for our fifth (“wood”)  wedding anniversary we had an agreement that I could acquire enough books to fill it but no more. After that I would need to get rid of books before acquiring new books. Since then I have been much more circumspect and judicious in making book purchases. This has helped me in many ways. In the intervening 12 years it has been more common for me to leave bookstores empty handed than not (used bookstores included).

    Interesting thing is that this year’s conference did the book distribution differently from the past. No longer leaving books stacked on  chairs when one returned from a break they now had a separate “zero-dollar bookstore” one needed to visit in order to pick up the books being “offered”.  So, technically, we weren’t given these books… we were being offered these books. One needed to be proactive to obtain them. So the fault for picking up anything extra would have been mine. (I wasn’t at the Band-of-Bloggers so cannot speak to that distribution)

    Blessings.

  • http://www.briankiley.net/ Brian Kiley

    The way we think about books can be pretty funny. I can relate to much of what you expressed in this post (particularly the desire to make sure people know how many books I own, ha!). I’ve found that books become a burden when reading them is an obligation rather than a choice. Nothing is as fun when it’s mandatory. Whether I receive a review copy of a book I didn’t really want to read in the first place or I’m simply given a book with the expectation that I’ll read it, it becomes a burden. This is especially true if it causes me to displace more interesting (from my perspective) reading material.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tim-Smith/1601133133 Tim Smith

    The amount of books that you have can have a direct impact on your chiropractic expenses whenever you find that the Lord has moved you to a new location in ministry, and you have to crate up, and uncrate a plethora of books that you have never read, hope to one day read, or never plan on reading.

  • EmilyStrongarm

    Since I am the wife in this post it wouldn’t be fair to answer the question. However, I am sorely tempted to buy you that “I like big books and I cannot lie” coffee mug I saw on Pinterest.

  • http://elehack.net/jennifer Jennifer Ekstrand

    I find it harder to part with books than other clutter, even duplicates or books I don’t particularly want to read. I think I illogically make owning physical books representative of reading, even though I haven’t owned most of the books I have read and I prefer my e-reader to physical books. 

  • http://www.boldlion.blogspot.com ‘Guerite ~ BoldLion

    As for me, I would give the books to the church library, so that others can read them.  I do always rejoice getting free books and read them if they are the kind that I do read. Some I do keep them since I do mark them up with colorful pen and highlighter, and some I do read without marking them up and give to the church library. Right now, my church only have 12 books, and I started that early this year. I do thank the Lord for free books or books that I won in the contest for them.

    Hungry to eat His Word,
    ‘Guerite ~ BoldLion

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  • http://hereinblairsville.blogspot.com/ Kyle Owenby

     I have so many books, they are arranged in piles and boxes in my bedroom floor! Storing them isn’t what I see as a burden though. Instead it’s the inability to read them all and the need to prioritize the books in order to read them. Some books I don’t have time for, fiction and popular works for example, I really must limit the time I spend reading. So the burden ends up being deciding which books are important and wondering whether I am missing something when I choose not to read.

    Follow my blog @ http://hereinblairsville.blogspot.com/

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  • bucknellarts

    When I know I can never read them all in my lifetime – which happened..uh..quite a few years ago.

    I just commented recently on another blog that I had seen Carl Truman’s name on the web but had never read him.     Then tonight I looked over and saw one of his books on my shelf.  

  • mrben

    I’m continuing to acquire books at an alarming rate. I even won one from you from the last T4G, if I recall correctly. A friend recently gave me £300 (about $500) to spend on theological books! I almost cried. However, I now need to stop, and start getting through all the reading that needs to be done! 

    Oh, and Kindle makes it worse. Lots worse. 

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      Yep, you did indeed win one from last year’s TGC conference. And you’re right, the Kindle doesn’t help. So many books…

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  • http://www.praybuddy.com/ Chris Gagner

    Books are a great source of knowledge, but reading shouldn’t take away from “doing”. I don’t read as much as I probably should.. but seeing that pile of books in your pictures makes my head dizzy. The expectations of reading those things are too high.

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