In early January, Netflix released the TV series "Cleaning with Marie Kondo"where the guru of cleanliness and order helps American families to rid the space in which they live. This is the second wave of Kondo's popularity - the last one began a couple of years ago after the release of the bestseller “Magic Cleaning. The Japanese art of putting things in order at home and in life”. One of the main principles on which the Mari Kondo method is built is to figure out whether a thing brings joy or not, so that in the end only the really beloved remains at home. Of course, the recommendations should not be taken too literally - for example, not everyone is happy with a home first-aid kit for storing pills, but you should not throw it away because of this. It's exclusively about approaching things in the house consciously, looking for something that will be really pleasant and comfortable, and not striving for hoarding. Nevertheless, one of Kondo's practical recommendations that caused the most violent reaction was the offer to say goodbye to books - Marie herself admits that she never has more than thirty volumes at home.
The idea of a library of only thirty books caused a wave of indignation. While some were joking (“In an attempt to reduce the number of books to thirty, the first thing I do is throw out Marie Kondo's book,” “Not more than thirty books on the bedside table? Not more than thirty books on my wishlist? Not more than thirty books that I read at the same time?”), others resented the categorical approach. To many, the figure seemed unrealistic, and the idea that books should “bring joy” simplifies the approach to literature: after this, only the collections “Chicken Soup for the Soul” should remain on the shelves, and not, for example, “Little Life”. The writer Anakana Schofield wrote a column about how books do not tolerate such an attitude: "Literature should not only bring joy or pleasure - art should also challenge us, awaken feelings in us."
As a result, Mari Kondo herself had to clarify the situation. In an interview with IndieWire, she explains that there is no universal set of things in the house that would suit everyone and everyone - the point is how valuable certain things, including books, are to you. “If the idea that someone gets rid of books or keeps only a few books at home makes you angry, it shows how much books are dear to you, how important they are in your life,” she says. In addition, Kondo reminds that she is not actually proposing to throw anything in the trash can - instead, she advises donating the books or giving them to someone else.
Nevertheless, the idea of getting rid of books (even if we are talking about completely non-radical methods such as handing them out to the library or giving them to friends), no matter whether they have read or not, seems wild to many. “When it comes to throwing away unread books - while it may be necessary to reduce the risk of fire or to prevent you from tripping and falling, this approach does not exactly match the opportunities that literature provides,” writes Anakana Schofield. "The real luck is in the end to read all the unread books, or at least keep them at home for as long as it takes to be able to satisfy, disappoint or shock you."
Possession of books in itself hardly speaks of anything other than, in fact, money and time spent on the library.
This situation in general and Anakana Schofield's words in particular show how we feel about books. For many, they are truly sacred, and the value is not only of their content, text and impressions (already received or those that you could potentially receive when you finally pick up the book), but also the publication itself as a physical, material object.But do we really need to hold on to them so tightly?
A large home library has long become synonymous with education and intelligence: the number of books on the shelves is usually associated with the amount of accumulated knowledge. Whether this is really so is a big question: the possession of books in itself hardly speaks of anything other than, in fact, money and time spent on the library. In addition, there is no guarantee that the owner of a large library will ever really reach its end: books take time, and the more interesting novelties appear, the more likely it is that the bestsellers of the past, put off "for later", will remain lying on shelves.
According to the Pew Research Center, Americans read an average of twelve books a year - while the average American reads about four books in twelve months (these numbers have remained largely unchanged since 2011). About a quarter of the Americans surveyed (24%) have not read a single book over the past year. The data for Russia sound a little more optimistic: according to VTsIOM, over the past three months, the Russians they surveyed have read, on average, six books (that is, two books a month and twenty-four books a year). However, it should be taken into account that only 55% of the people who took part in the survey could name the exact amount of what they read, and 37% of the respondents openly said that they do not like to read.
In recent years, more and more people say that paper publications are gradually losing out to electronic ones, although, of course, it is still far from a complete rejection of the former. Among Americans who read, for example, the majority prefer paper books (39% of respondents), a slightly smaller part - both paper and electronic (29% of respondents), and only 7% choose books on digital media. Russian readers use both paper and electronic: 35% of Russians surveyed borrow them from their home library, another 35% download them from the Internet (for a fee or illegally). 24% of the respondents buy paper books in stores or borrow them from friends, and 13% use the services of libraries.
So far, an ordinary home library is more likely not an archive in a reader or cloud service, but traditional shelves with books. According to a joint study by Australian and American scholars, the average number of books in a home library varies from country to country. In Russia, for example, the average library size is 174 books (although most often there are more modest 65 books), in the USA - 114 books, in the UK - 143 books, and in Turkey - 27. This figure does not seem so huge, but even with active reading (two books a month) to “sort out” the average Russian home library, a person will need about seven years - it is difficult to imagine that during this time no new books will appear at home, or that a person will not “go astray” and reach to end. That is, of course, there are people who read a lot, but not everyone does this.
Of course, one cannot speak of a special attitude towards reading in Russia in isolation from history. The Soviet era is strongly associated with a shortage, which also affected books, a huge proportion of publications and authors were banned. Books that were freely available could not always satisfy the demand of readers, and samizdat and tamizdat (that is, books published outside the USSR and illegally imported into the country) were not read by everyone. A paradoxical situation developed: on the one hand, there was an acute shortage of books for readers, on the other, those that could be bought in bookstores often remained unsold (this was especially true of socio-political literature). It is not surprising that in such a situation, books acquired a special status: any publication that today would not arouse our special interest in us, in a situation of scarcity, becomes especially valuable - including as a thing that can be put on a shelf.In many houses, endless rows of collected works of the classics, left over from Soviet times, have survived to this day. They tried to get the books, even if they were not particularly needed - most likely, in most houses where the famous three-volume Pushkin's or Lermontov's four-volume books are kept, they are rarely returned after graduation.
Even if you love your library and have been collecting it for many years, this does not mean at all that you cannot approach it more consciously.
Today, most of the popular books are easy to obtain: even if they have not been published in Russia, you can often find their original version online. Huge libraries no longer seem to be the most logical type of space organization - often in small apartments there is simply no place for them, and the multi-colored rows of collected works of the classics have long ceased to be an indicator of "status". The reading situation has also changed. If earlier it was one of the most accessible and popular forms of leisure, today, when we are surrounded by a huge amount of information, it becomes more and more difficult for us to make a choice in favor of it. Fiction and non-fiction have to compete not only with social networks and electronic publications, but also, for example, with podcasts, video games and many other forms of entertainment - and in this struggle, the book does not always win. In addition, books are gradually ceasing to be the main source of information - remember the last time you tried to find information not in Google, but in the library.
Of course, all this does not mean that you need to immediately get rid of the inherited paper library or switch to electronic editions. Some people do not like e-books - for example, because it is more difficult for them to focus on digital publishing or audio version, or because their eyes get tired. Others love the book as an object - a quality, well-bound publication on a lovingly chosen shelf. But even if you love your library and have been collecting it for many years, this does not mean at all that you cannot approach it more consciously: there are probably "random" books in it, publications that you did not like, or books that you are no longer interested in and to which you are unlikely to ever return. In the end, a very good book from the fact that you pass it on will definitely not become less valuable.
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