Thursday, January 25, 2007

My Book Addiction

I don't know about you, but I have a book obsession. I love them. I devour them. My house is home to stacks of them, which I am perpetually trying to relocate to new homes. Ostensibly to keep the bookshelves from splitting at the seams, but in truth: so I can buy more.

You see, if you send me into a bookstore with my wallet, I cannot help but come out with a stack of new ones -- a few shiny, fresh-looking paperbacks, with titles in bright spring colors, a selection of thick ones with curlicue letters and covers like old parchment -- maybe even a hardcover or two.

It's an addiction.

Fortunately, I live two blocks from a library, and a friend of mine often teases me that I'm the satellite branch -- the Karen MacInerney annex. They tell you on the bottom of the receipt these days how much money you've saved this year. In 2006, I saved almost 8,000 dollars by going to the library. I shudder to think how much I spent at the bookstore.

The problem is, I often hit my book limit -- it's 50 per family -- and have to cajole my kids to let me take a few of theirs back. So I can get more books... for them, of course. Yeah, right. And the whole cajoling process is becoming increasingly challenging, which is yet another reason not to have a third kid. I'd have to split my library privileges further.

Even now, after I've read Ian his three books (Strega Nona, an Arthur book, and one of Cynthia Rylant's great Henry and Mudge books) and snuggled with Abby while she read Half Magic, any effort to turn off the hall light results in an outcry from both children. Why? Because they're reading, of course. So at least something good has come from my little obsession -- other than homes for several billion dust mites, that is.

I'm guessing a lot of you are with me here, but when I was young, I remember reading late at night by the hall light, by the closet light, by a flashlight I snuck into bed with me. Any source of light I could find; I'd have used fireflies if that was all I could get my hands on. I read in the car. I read at the dinner table. I finished a good chunk of Anne McCaffrey's wonderful Dragonrider series during geometry class. (It was a big class, and the teacher's style was less than riveting.) I read compulsively, really. And even now, my night table has about 35 books on it (a rough, and potentially low, estimate).

What's interesting, though, is that my tastes keep changing. A few years ago, I devoured mysteries. These days? Not so much. My current interests are medieval Europe, simplifying and decluttering (including book relocation tactics), historical fiction, and whatever jumps out at me from the shelves -- right now I'm reading a biography of Wodehouse. (I'm also back on an armchair travel binge, which is not unusual.) I even read a little fantasy recently, which I haven't done in years, and discovered that Robin Hobb is a delightful author.

See, that's the thing about books. There are worlds and people hidden between those covers, just begging for you to join them. Today medieval Germany, tomorrow modern-day Afghanistan, Saturday a jaunt to Paris' Left Bank.

Speaking of Paris' Left Bank, I picked up a book by almost that very name the other day, and I may just have to give it a whirl. If I don't finish rereading Helen Fielding's marvelous Bridget Jones sequel first... (Last night she had me spluttering tea all over my night shirt.)

Happy writing -- and reading, everyone. And I hope your weather is as marvelous as ours was today -- I'd almost forgotten what the sun looks like!



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