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My Unapologetic Love for books

Alongside a tinge of distaste I’ve developed for them

Akshay Gajria
Missives from an Island
5 min readApr 3, 2024

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Hello!

In February of this year, I moved into a new home with my partner. Our first. There is a tradition amongst romantics to carry their partner across the threshold of their doorway; lift them up in your arms and usher them into a new space subliminally saying not only have “I got you” but cling to me as we step into this new space, this is the safest you will ever feel. (None of this is researched, just the way I think and feel about the matter.)

I did not lift my partner in my arms when we walked in this new house. Neither did she carry me. It didn’t seem us. We walked in hand in hand, equals in all things, when the agent led us in and handed us the keys. It was a nice sunny day and I remember walking back with the weight of the keys pressed against my thigh, a spring in my step.

I maintained that spring as the saga of packing our worldly belongings began. Once we had our suitcase full of clothes moved into the new house, then came the boxes. Boxes full of books.

My partner’s family (and now mine) were very kind in helping us ferry the boxes to our new home. In the essay Bookshop Memories by George Orwell, he talks about his time working at bookshop and how that experience made him despise books. The mouldy smell of damp paper, the strollers who came into a bookshop not buying anything and other shady characters he encountered. But worse were the books themselves. Stacked up high and weighing a ton. Moving them from shelf to shelf gets not just difficult but annoying and quite taxing. Yet, books remain the place where his words shine the most. Why this hate? I never really understood this, not fully, until I lifted that box of books we had packed.

I’ve been blessed with a partner who shares my weakness: we cannot enter a bookstore without buying a book. Over the course of the time we have spent in London, my partner and I have devoured bookstores and hunted through their many shelves. Many books have made their way into our possession, an investment in our future selves who will one day read those very books. But it’s never enough. That growing pile filled up two big boxes, both that I was to lift.

When I first hefted that box, I remembered George Orwell’s words and I finally understood his loss of love for them. Books can weigh you down and are a bother to transport from place to place.

Fun Fact: Everyone is familiar with the word bookworm 🐛 but I believe it doesn’t do justice. Bookdragon 🐉 on the other hand sounds more appropriate as we not only live in our books but also horde them as a kind of treasure. Think Smaug living within the piles of dwarven treasure within the Lonely Mountain.

In November of 2023, while returning to London from Bombay, my mom and I got into a huge argument. She could not understand my refusal to carry any food items when all her friends’ kids carry much when they go out of India. I asked her a single question: “Are they carrying books in their suitcase?” None do.

The weight of books is quite high. In a flight where every kilo is counted, it feels counter productive to carry multiple books. Yet, I can’t seem to stop myself. I like having books around me, a quick library of my own to browse through, read a single page here and there, satisfy a nagging memory of a written passage by going back to it. Words, printed on a paper, something physical to touch and an idea to hold in the mind.

The weight of books continue to increase in my life. When moving into the new house, I carried the boxes of books to and from the car, and finally crossed the threshold of the new house carrying those boxes, alone. I didn’t let anyone else do that, even disregarded offers to help. It was my moment with them, to cling to them; subliminally telling myself the safest place is forever where they are.

Maybe I’m just a foolish romantic. But it’s the only way I know to live.

A little corner of our home and a glimpse into “some” of the books we have here in London.

Friend’s Updates 🧔🏼

My friend Tim was long listed in the National Poetry Competition 2023 by The Poetry Society. This is sooo cool. I’m sharing his poem here.

Author: Tim Bradford

Akshay’s Updates 👨🏻‍💻

  • Last month I got a chance to interview Christopher Paolini. It was a super exciting conversation ranging from uses of magic in fantasy to Bollywood. The interview will be published in May according to my editor (if I transcribe and get it to him in time).
  • I conducted a Fantasy Fiction lecture for students studying the Popular Fiction module in Creative Writing at the BA level at Birkbeck, University of London (my alma mater). It made me realise how much I miss teaching.
  • If you are thinking about writing (a story, an essay, anything) and looking for someone to coach you through the process, hit me up. My slots are open April onward. More details below:

Words to Remember 📝

Unlike everything else in the world, books do not diminish in value when passed on. They become priceless.

- Sourabh Yadav

You’re reading Missives from an Island a newsletter by Akshay Gajria. This newsletter is delivered to your inbox on the 30th of every month on Substack. You can also find Akshay on Twitter (X), Instagram, and Medium. If you enjoyed reading, consider tipping him by buying a cup of tea (or three) here or buying his ebook (linked below). You can discover his work at akshaygajria.com

getbook.at/Home_AkshayGajria

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