Summer Rerun--Book Junkie

June 09, 2014

Note: I'm taking a more relaxed approach to blogging this summer, so occasionally I'm going to rerun a previous post. I hope you enjoy this one, from 2010. I have made a few minor edits, including updating the photos, since it last appeared, and I've added an author's note regarding the progress (or lack thereof) I'm making on my TBR piles.

I confess. I’m a book junkie. In this electronic age, I’m utterly and completely addicted to books: reading them, buying them, browsing through them in a bookstore or library. When I inhale the smell of a bookstore, especially a used bookstore, my heart flutters and adrenaline surges through me.

Libraries also give me a rush. All those books waiting to be opened—and they’re free. I know my 14-digit library card number by heart, and I adore searching the online catalog and putting books on hold. With one click of a mouse, I can feed my habit with books from libraries all over my county.

And buying books online? While it lacks the sensuality of the bookstore, online book buying gives me an additional fix: endless titles and both familiar and obscure-but-fascinating authors to explore. I can spend hours wandering through Amazon or Abe Books or Not only is there the thrill of finding a bargain book (May Sarton’s Journal of a Solitude for a penny!), but the additional pleasure of anticipating the arrival of that book in the mail.

My addiction is such that I read at every opportunity, and in every type of surrounding. Along with more traditional places, such as doctors’ waiting rooms or the bathtub, I read while in the gas station car wash (and once while pumping gas), while in line at the drive through at the pharmacy or bank, while blow drying my hair, while nursing my baby in the middle of the night, and between halves at that baby’s football games (he’s 19 now). I once tried to read in a Jacuzzi spa, but found the jets splashed too much water on the book.

I usually read at least three books at one time—fiction, non-fiction, self-help, humor, spirituality…I’ve got a book for every mood. I read books about books (one of my favorites was aptly titled Leave Me Alone I’m Reading) and keep a log of the books I read each year. Once, I made a New Year’s resolution to read less. When I pack for a vacation, I choose what books to take as carefully as I choose my clothing.

I confess that I feed my husband’s addiction as well. Aside from the pleasure I know reading gives him, if he doesn’t have something good to read, then I won’t be able to…he’ll need conversation or meals or (ahem) “marital attention” when I want to read. (Does that make me a pusher?)

I like to blame my mother for my dilemma. I inherited my love of reading from her, but she may have just the slightest addiction problem herself: she once got a traffic ticket for reading while sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic. She had opened a book on the seat beside her, snatching sentences while the traffic remained at a standstill. The motorcycle cop who ticketed her did not approve.

Books started out as my innocent companions—my solace in a rather lonely childhood, their characters my friends and comforters. Coming home to an empty house after school wasn’t quite so bad when I could roam the fields and woods of Prince Edward Island with Anne of Green Gables or feel the wind on my face as Alec raced with the Black Stallion. Books taught me about everything from puberty to how to bake brownies. My desire to travel was first awakened by reading James Herriot’s Yorkshire.

Books have enriched my life more than I can say—but somehow, I crossed the line from relaxing hobby to addiction. For years, I kidded myself, denying I had a problem—until we recently remodeled our bedroom closet and my addiction became something I could no longer ignore. On a free-standing bookcase in our closet, I had stored my stash of purchased-but-not-yet-read books. When I moved them to make room for the new closet system, I found I had 52 unread books. That’s a whole year’s worth if I manage to read one a week!

So now I’m in rehab. I can’t buy any more books and I must curtail my library habit until I read some of the ones I actually own. I’ve sifted through the books in the closet and made the hard decision to get rid of a few. As they’ve lingered in the stack, I’ve realized that I’m just not going to read some of them. (Henry James’ The Golden Bowl comes to mind. I’ve begun that book three times and haven’t been able to make it out of the first chapter.)

One of the piles
It’s been several months since I confronted my problem. I haven’t been completely successful in reining in my book habit, but the unread books in my closet now number only 28. Hey, it’s a start.

Author's note: Since I wrote this post, things have only gotten worse. I currently have even MORE than 52 unread books on my shelves, despite participating in two Mount TBR Challenges. In 2014 I have limited my book acquisition to books received from Paperback Swap, purchased from my library's book shop or with my credit at a local used book shop. I'm still acquiring books, but at a slower rate. I don't think I'll ever come to the end of my TBR piles, but my goal is just to get them down to a manageable size so that I won't feel like a hoarder every time I enter my closet.

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  1. I do so understand!! Keep on reading, I say! You remind me of former fellow booksellers & librarians... Happy reading to you.

  2. I have never counted my unread books and I don't intend to. And I'm quite sure you're not really a hoarder, since I've seen one in person. It turns out that my sister in law is a hoarder.

  3. Rita--Thanks--I'm glad someone understands!

  4. Cheryl--You know, I almost didn't write that about hoarding. I meant it humorously (and I hope you weren't offended);I always feel so sad when I come across a hoarding TV show--it seems like such a difficult issue to deal with and the people have suffered so much. So sorry about your sister-in-law.

  5. Ah Kathy - I am a kindred spirit...books have always been my friends and like you they travel with me. Beside my bed I have a great big pile and it keeps growing...Perhaps I am preparing for the day that all reading goes digital...that will be a truly sad day indeed. There is just nothing like holding a book. So glad someone else shares my addiction. Have a wonderful week and hope you get some of those books in the closet read.

  6. Debbie--I agree that there's nothing like holding (and smelling) a book. I have a tablet and occasionally read a book on there, but I much prefer a "real" book. I just finished a book from my TBR pile tonight, and will get to choose another, so I'm making progress!