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Books and Buddha-nature

alberto manguel's library

Alberto Manguel, author of The Library at Night, among other books, writes lovingly in the New York Times about his current library south of the Loire Valley in France and his other libraries that grew into this one.

But Manguel is a hoarder — a habit I’ve been trying to rid myself of. As books overflow their places throughout the house, I am trying to be freer about sending them on their way to other readers, like a kind of wheel of literary samsara.

Manguel goes so far as to write “I have dozens of very bad books that I don’t throw away in case I ever need an example of a book I think is bad.” He does describe a single prisoner he released: “The only book I ever banished from my library was Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho, which I felt infected the shelves with its prurient descriptions of deliberately inflicted pain. I put it in the garbage; I didn’t give it to anyone because I wouldn’t give away a book I wasn’t fond of.” He won’t even lend books, writing that “If I want someone to read a book, I’ll buy a copy and offer it as a gift. I believe that to lend a book is an incitement to theft.”

I am devoted to books, but if we keep all the things we love and only give away those that we don’t love I think we are very far from achieving Buddha-nature.

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Via Sans Serif, who writes of a modest literary inheritance, “Some of the books I decided to give away, some were so beaten up they had to go in the recycling bin…. But a number of the books from Alabama made it onto the bookshelf.”

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Shown: A portion of Manguel’s library, from the NYT article.

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1 Comment

  1. Mark

    I feel much the same way about books as Senor Manguel. In fact, it’s one of the ways I make judgements about new people in my life. I always look to see how many books they have in their homes, what types and so on. I truly believe it’s a good way of finding out about people.

    That photo reminds me of one of my favourite hotels – The Savoy in Prague, which has a library area that looks just like that.

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