Tuesday, February 21, 2012
How Many Books? by Andy Scheer
The question came innocently. So innocently, the person didn't even ask about books. But I couldn't help making the application.
This weekend I watched on DVD a delightfully quirky BBC mystery program from the late 1980s. Called The Beiderbecke Tapes, the story concerned a a middle-aged schoolteacher—a fan of early jazz—who mistakenly receives a cassette tape (remember those) that instead of 1920s music contained top-secret information.
For various plot reasons, early in the story the jazz fan moves out of his flat and takes up residence with an English teacher from the same school. After he brings in box after box of jazz records, then tapes, she expressed astonishment—and asked how many records he owned.
The question took him aback. He had no idea. Hundreds, he said, maybe a thousand. Perhaps even two thousand.
I looked away from the TV and scanned the walls of my basement. Then I began tallying bookshelves. Counting each horizontal shelf (not each shelving unit) I came up with fifty. Their average length is about two feet. And they're comfortably stuffed.
How many books? I have no idea. Hundreds, maybe a thousand. Perhaps even two thousand.
But why count them? Those are only the books in the basement.
How about you?