I am a bibliophile. I’m not sure how I contracted the book-hoarding bug, but I’ve had it ever since I bought and read my first “chapter book” in second grade. That’s when I started buying every book I could get my hands on; I pilfered through my dad’s spare change at the end of every week, so I would have enough money for the next book order or book fair.
I am also a compulsive reader. I cannot not read. And I know that I owe many of my “smarts” to all the reading I’ve done over the years. I read absolutely everything (cereal boxes, signs, newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, books) and retain much of what I read, including stuff from those essays on the ACT! What’s that all about?! Often I’ll find myself in a conversation, and some random fact will pop out of my mouth, and I’ll think to myself, “Where did that come from? I know I read it somewhere, but where?” However I got to be this way, I don’t really care. I love that I am a reader!
My fetishes have evolved since elementary school, and here’s a look at them over the years:
Sarah’s Card Catalog. At some point in school, I learned about the magic of card catalogs, and because my own library of books was growing, I created my own filing system. Every book had a unique number and an index card with its bibliographic information. I encouraged my family and friends to borrow books from Sarah’s Library. (Isn’t amazing that at even such a young age my love for office supplies and need to organize presented themselves?)
Jenny—The Other Bibliophile. In fourth grade, I met my best friend Jenny. She’s a bibliophile, too, and she had her own library, a sign that we are kindred spirits (bonus points if you know what book I’m referencing). We often borrowed books from one another, and we formed a book club at one point. We still recommend books to one another today, and I think she has me beat in the sheer number of books read ever.
First Bookshelves. When my parents built their current house—my childhood home—, they let me choose my bedroom because I was the oldest kid; I could have the bedroom with three windows or I could have the bedroom with two windows and a window seat. The window seat didn’t come until I was in junior high, but it was lovely once it was installed. Flanking both sides of the bench under my window were floor to ceiling shelves and storage, and I filled them with books, which were of course reorganized biannually.
Future Bookshelves. I still dream in bookshelves. I’ve visited the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina a handful of times, and the library in that house makes me yearn for one of my own. It has two levels, rolling ladders, a spiral staircase, and a passageway behind the chimney. And remember the scene in Beauty and the Beast when Beast gives Belle his library? Remember all those books? Oh, be still my heart! And please don’t let me look at a Levenger catalog; the temptation to lust is just too great. One day, Chris and I will be independently wealthy, and we can have a room just for our books. It will be marvelous.
Literature Classes. For my writing degrees, I had to take a few literature classes to round out my studies, and I loved all of them. My first was a survey of American literature before 1965, my second was a study of Toni Morrison and William Faulkner, and my last was a study of Edith Wharton. The Wharton summer class was one of my favorite classes of all time because I read excellent books all summer! If you have not read the House of Mirth, I beg you to do so immediately!
Barnes & Noble. I do not know how I grew up in a town without Barnes & Noble, but from here on out, I will live within BN driving distance. I don’t always have a lot of money to spend on books (thankfully, my family knows that BN gift cards are always gladly accepted), but when Chris and I are on a date or out putzing around, we almost always end up here. There’s just something about browsing all those titles that I love—maybe it’s the possibility that my next favorite book is waiting in one of those aisles.
Harry Potter. I cannot write a post about reading without mentioning Harry Potter. I love those books because they are wonderful, because they got my husband reading, and because I can connect with so many others because of those books. They tormented me night and day as I waited for book seven to come out last summer! In my book (pun intended), they’re up there with Anne of Green Gables, Little House on the Prairie, and Indian in the Cupboard.
Currently Reading. I got so many books for Christmas: Oscar Wilde, Ernest Hemingway, Charles Dickens, Mary Shelley, Jane Austen! My hubby is uber smart, and I dropped lots of hints that I wanted some classics on my bookshelves. I don’t know how I made it through my childhood without reading Mark Twain, so to make up for lost time, I read Tom Sawyer, The Prince and the Pauper, Huckleberry Finn, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and Pudd’nhead Wilson last fall, and now I’m working my way through my collection of Charles Dickens (I just started Oliver Twist). And I have so many more to read! That’s what I love about reading—it never ends!
I’m not sure how one becomes a bibliophile or a reader (there is a difference, but I happen to be both), and I’m certainly not sure how I became obsessive and compulsive regarding either, but I am so glad those characteristics define parts of me. I am absolutely certain that had I not been a reader, I never would have become a writer. What about you? Are you a reader? Any recommendations for me?