The book is dead: long live the book.

The Boookshop House, Lagos.

To most bibliophiles, book acquisition is second nature. They acquire books to read for their immediate intellectual gratifications or to read at a later date or at times to beautify and add to their ever growing book collections.

The energies of Lagos life – creative, malevolent, ambiguous – converge at the bus stops.

– Teju Cole

For some time now, I’ve been thinking of what will happen to my books when the soul in me leaves this world of mortals and uncertainties to the world beyond? I’ve thought of this not because of any known ailment to me (thank God), but out of curiosity and the reality of life that in less than five years that I relocated  from the Lagos of my heart (Audio) to the quietness of the Yorkshire region in England, I’ve lost a very close teacher, brother and friend to cancer. So, the thought of death is not just an hyperbole anymore to me but real.

When I lost my father, I still remember our last conversations, and the days after his death; how I kept listening to an Islamic lecture on death delivered in my native language, Yoruba, and how a particular phrase kept ringing in my head, over and over again – “death the terminator of happiness.” He had books that fortunately we did not disposed-off and today I long to re-unite with those books, for they do not only give me fond memories of him but also create that feeling of nostalgia of years gone, those teen years, when I would randomly pick up his London GCE O-Level English language text and learn some new – idioms, phrases and words.

So, why the talk about death, whilst talking about books? One physical object that has brought me closer to thinking about death more than most other physical objects is book. I’ve observed how a random visit to a bibliophile’s house by me would be met with a sitting room littered with – new, old, unread, over read, to read, just read, about to read and presently reading books. But when death visited the home of this bibliophile and took his soul away to the world beyond, one thing was left behind – the books.

I observed that some of the books – as they probably had not been bequeathed to a public library in advance by the then owner or disposed-off during the previous owner’s lifetime – the family of the deceased chose to bequeath them to a school, which was a noble thing to have done on their part but there are times when circumstances could have led such families to scrap such books. I remember browsing through a book listing page on Gumtree (an online marketplace) one day and coming across “These books are my late father’s and I’m selling them because I have no need for them.” and I just thought to myself “What a waste!”

As someone who enjoys and loves acquiring books and cherish them, I’ve been thinking – what will happen to my books when I’m gone? To bequeath to any library nowadays and for the bequeathing to be accepted must be that your collections are unique and not what the library itself had chosen to dispose-off in the past. So, how will the death of a bibliophile not equates to the death of their collections? For me before that eventuality happens, I’ve chosen to read and review as many of the books in my collection as possible- for to do these two things to my collections is to hopefully give them extended lifetime after I might have gone.

Are you a bibliophile or have you had experience with one in the past, how do you plan to deal with this “immaterial” debacle or how did you deal with it?

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4 Comments

  • Well, come to think of it, I remember those days that we joined book clubs to read and borrow books.
    Many youths in Nigeria now are oblivious of the classics.
    Some of my books have been borrowed and not returned while the many I have left at home now are being eaten by rats and cockroaches in my small library. Nowadays, it is difficult to find time to read novels or any of the classics.
    But my medical texts are still in good shape and I hope to the them in future to my alma mata.
    But the ones that give me concern are my dad’s collections. He is so much in love with them that he cannot give them out and unfortunately most of them are no longer in vogue.

    • You’ve raised some very important issues, particularly on youth culture towards reading in Nigeria. The question is – what’s the way out? Secondly, I hope you’ll be able to salvage your books as soon as possible; as rats, termites, water and fire are the worst enemies of books after humans.
      I’m very sure your dad’s books are in safe hands and they’ll be well protected and books don’t actually go out of vogue but only end up becoming rare collections.

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