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Tipsheet

It's Almost Comical That Some on the Left Consider This Activity Smug and Middle Class

Gregorio Borgia

Do liberals have no joy in their lives? There is nothing left to the imagination with these people—think of any social activity, and these ghouls will find an issue with it. Alas, here’s the latest societal trend that’s caused some liberals to have bouts of irritable bowel syndrome: book ownership. No, I’m not kidding. Someone at the Guardian penned an opinion piece that argued that owning books is smug and bourgeoisie behavior. This person claimed that owning published works is akin to cultish behavior. So, being a voracious reader is now problematic; kill all the bookworms.  

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The author details how her Buddhist husband didn’t have much regarding reading material because of a lifestyle emphasis on decluttering one’s life. The part about giving away books isn’t bad, and she’s not advocating book bans. Still, these didactic articles are reasons progressives will remain a minority because they must be busy bodies on most, if not all, issues that are simply none of their business. If you want to read a bunch of books, give some away, and get news once in a cyclical rate—cheers! You don’t need to lecture people about how owning books can be cultish and smug. And yes, the publication did have to change the headline because I’m sure even the most ardent liberal was doing double-takes (via The Guardian): 

This phenomenon is best illustrated by a poster that for a while was following me around the internet in advert form, under the misapprehension that because I love cats and read books – and, indeed, have written a book about a cat – it had my taste in interior decor pinned down. The poster shows a cat and bears the slogan: “THAT’S WHAT I DO, I READ BOOKS, I DRINK TEA AND I KNOW THINGS.”

Apologies if you own this poster, but to me it encapsulates everything that is smug and middle class about the cult of book ownership. I don’t mean reading – provided you’re lucky enough to still have a local library, that is a pastime that is accessible to almost everyone. No, I specifically mean having a lot of books and boasting about it, treating having a lot of books as a stand-in for your personality, or believing that simply owning a lot of books makes one “know things”. 

I understand that certain books can feel vital and precious. I grew up in a family where there were a lot of books on the shelves, though we couldn’t always afford new ones. I’ve never forgotten the privilege of that, nor of the position I’m in now, where I am sometimes sent books free of charge. Perhaps that’s why I find the idea of hoarding them rather sad – there’s even a Japanese word, tsundoku, for allowing books to pile up unread. Instead, I choose to donate mine to places where there are people who can most benefit from them, or leave them on the wall outside my house, where they always disappear.

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Okay, so what’s the point here? It’s fine that you want to declutter your life and donate books, but you alienate people by saying if anyone chooses otherwise, you’re essentially a bad person. A piece about simplifying your life turned into a lecture about how you’re awful for not following this advice or something. Maybe some of us want to keep the stuff that we bought. 

I couldn’t care less about what people keep in their homes. 

The best part is the headline tweak which is evident with this note: “The headline on this article was amended on 24 January 2023 to place greater emphasis on the column’s central argument.”

The new title is “Reading is precious – which is why I’ve been giving away my books.” The original creature was “Reading is precious – but the cult of book ownership can be smug and middle class.”

Oh, how inviting, right?

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