Posted by: canthold | July 11, 2007

The Need To Read

They say that if you question your own sanity then you can’t be insane. They also say that admitting you have a problem is the first step to finding a solution.

Lately I’ve seriously been questioning whether I have an addiction to the printed word. Don’t tell my husband this, but I’ve purchased five books in the last two days. I need them. I’ve just got to have them.

When my husband and I met, we both had giant (full) bookcases in our respective homes. There were a lot of college texts (since we’ll forget everything in the lectures eventually) but a nice mixture of fiction and non-fiction. We both have a lot of classics, surprisingly, without much overlap. He had the plays of Shaw and Ibsen and the cutest little Maupassant. (Right! Maupassant is cute. His work is anything but cute. But the little blue book it’s bound in certainly is.) I had all my favorites and re-read them over and over.

He moved into my apartment when we got married because I had a two-bedroom rent-controlled unit with two parking spots, a view of Golden Gate Park and the Pacific Ocean. One entire wall of that apartment housed all of our books, at first in a cinder-block and plank contraption, and then in about four tall Ikea specials. Our books, whom I prefer to call my friends, were right there. Right there!

When we moved to the suburbs, something changed. The books were banished into the spare room behind the garage where the water damage and mold creep killed the bookcases after the The Great Flood of 2005. Okay, so we weren’t actually in the line of the floodwater, but the excess of rain saturated the ground so much that it seeped up through the concrete and into our garage and spare room that way. We suffered a lot of damaged belongings nonetheless.

When we finally bought our Home Sweet Home, our books were sadly relegated to the crawlspace below the main living area. It’s an area that is hard to describe. Part of it is like a corridor and part actually requires you to crawl into. I have several shelves of books and my office in there. A lot of the books are still in boxes like some sort of prison, stored away until they can be liberated. And the rest of my books are in rolling drawers under my bed. Or stacked next to my bed.

No doubt my love of books can be blamed on my mother. She surrounded me with them with I was a kid. In fact, after reading A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, I alphabetized her books and started reading them in order.

As any good daughter would do, I’m passing along my love of books to my kids. They see me with my nose in a book (or newspaper or magazine or crushed up against the cereal box) as often as I saw my own mom doing this. Their room has a floor to ceiling built-in that has five shelves stuffed full of their own skinny tomes. I’ve been waiting patiently for my oldest to start reading on her own so that she can dive into the imaginary worlds only available from a good book.

With so many books already around me, and not enough room to actually let them out of captivity to roam freely, why do I feel the need to bring more into my home? And if I wasn’t doing something wrong, why do I feel the need to hide it from my husband? I rationalize that there are worse things that I could be doing with both my time and money. Should I be able to stop myself? Should I stop?

I belong to the book club run by my local library. It is one of my favorite pass-times and social connections that I have. In addition to being around some really great people, they expose me to books and authors that aren’t normally on my radar. I have an excuse to buy a new book every month (which I sometimes buy used, by the way) but seeing how we meet at the library, I’m very aware that I could actually borrow the book from the library for free.

That’s what makes me think that I have an addiction. But maybe that’s too harsh of a word for an innocuous obsession. Either way, I’m waiting on pins and needles for them to arrive!

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