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Confessions of a Book Junkie


My Amazon wishlist is, almost entirely, books. If I go too long without reading, I feel strange, definitely less me in an indescribable way. Eventually, I get novel-rabid, looking for a spare moment, even five minutes in the parking lot before work, where I can read two paragraphs of Neil Gaiman’s latest whatever.

 This is my brain. This is my brain on books.

 I grew up with a love of reading. There wasn’t a childhood vacation where I didn’t run through all the books I packed two days into the trip. This always resulted in my dragging my parents to a bookstore to slake my word-thirst. I was the kid in high school English class who loved summer reading, who always read ahead, and who the school librarian knew by name. This only got worse in college, all the way through graduate school. I practically ate everything from Ted Hughes’ Birthday Letters to Michelle Cliff’s Abeng. My English Literature major did nothing to stave my habit; instead, it only made me more ravenous for literary things.

 But this isn’t something non-book people understand. (Yes, they exist. They are not a myth.) My best friend is not a reader. In fact, she teases me, good-naturedly, about my book nerd ways.  I always bring a book when I stay over her house. The last time she drove in my car, she exclaimed – with mild horror – “There is a BOOK in your backseat. You have a problem.” Yes, yes, I do. I am a book junkie.

 The other day, I was telling her that a chunk of my paycheck had gone toward the purchase of books, despite the lack of space to store them and there never being enough hours in the day to actually read them. She gave me a look. You know the kind. It politely says, You’re crazy. I love you anyway, but you’re still crazy. She then asked, “But why?”

 Some people spend their money on shoes. Or purses.Or ponies. I spend mine on books. (And coffee. But that’s another story.) I tried to explain it to her, as I’ve tried to explain it to others over the years: Without books, I am less me. I read, therefore I am.

 I love books. I love the way they smell. I love the way they let me escape for a little while, getting a glimpse into lives I’ll only live adjacently, through words that leave the door open to a previously unseen kingdom. Recently, I even went so far as to buy an e-reader, despite the fact that print books are my first love, because I absolutely adore the idea of being able to instantly acquire pretty much any book my nerd heart desires.

 To me, the most horrifying episode of The Twilight Zone is “Time Enough at Last.” It’s the one where Burgess Meredith plays a man who loves to read and ends up being the last person on earth with all the time in the world. He proclaims, “Books. Books. All the books I’ll need. All the books I’ll ever want,” only to have his glasses break. He can’t read without them. That is a terrible, awful fate.

 This is what I try to explain to those who do not love books. Mostly, the explanation is met with a placating smile and a nod. I guess it’d be like someone trying to tell me why they like math, because (to me) math is the Devil – and I’m all out of Winchesters. Books, unlike math, are messy. They’ve left me grief-stricken. They’ve made me laugh. They’ve kept me up until the wee hours of the morning, with a flashlight, frantically muttering, “Just one more chapter!” like an addict.

 So, maybe there are people out there who don’t get it. They won’t understand why I spend a heap of my paycheck on ALL THE NOVELS. Or why I might keep two books on my nightstand, only to fall asleep with at least one in the bed. But I’m a book junkie. And, to quote Walt Whitman, “I am large, I contain multitudes.”

  1. June 19, 2014 at 11:40 pm

    “I contain multitudes.” I love this. Yes, I have a lot of books on my shelves. And in my Kindle. And every day, I gather more, possibly more than I’ll ever be able to read. But I shudder when I think I might be able to read them all before I die. On my last day, I still want to think I’ve got something else to read later.

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