Monday, August 15, 2011

Book Lust Ain't Just for Nancy Pearl

Some people have disposable income. These people can afford to be defined, not necessarily by their money, but by what they do with it.

Some people spend their disposable income on alcohol, on bars and clubs and always-flowing libations. These people are called partiers, socialites, or (alternately) 'alcoholics.'

Some people spend their disposable income on clothes and shoes-- more than any one individual could possibly need. These people are called 'shopaholics.'

Some people spend their money on fine food and fine wine. These people are called 'gourmets.'

Some people spend their money on toys, slides, water guns, stuffed animals, and amusement parks. These people are called 'parents.'

I'm mostly kidding about the latter, but it's true that there are as many ways to spend money on your interests as there are interests. Which brings me to an admission:

I am a book-aholic. A bibliophile. A bookworm. A first-degree book lover. I'm a girl who reads.

This condition has been exacerbated by a lifelong proximity to books-- a tantalizingly close one. I grew up inhabiting libraries and bookstores; at any given point my own house vaguely resembled both of the above.

Bibliophilia is a genetic condition in my family, but my mom and I both got a particularly severe and fast-moving strain. We're the two who have to be dragged out of bookstores. We have both found our excuses for buying books at different points.

She is a school librarian for a Pre-K through 12 academy. She built the high school library from scratch. Bringing in appropriate and useful new books is her job.

I, on the other hand, found my excuse in the school holidays that I spent working at Barnes & Noble. While I worked there, I could tell myself that by spending part of my paycheck on books, I was both learning how to do my job better and keeping myself employed. I helped other customers to find books that were right for them, and was also one of my own best customers.

Now I find myself an underemployed college graduate with plentiful free time. I've worked my way through more than twenty books in the three months since graduation. And I am painfully aware of the fact that I live ten minutes down the street from one of the best bookstores in DC, Politics & Prose.

That information haunts my book-loving soul. Every day that I wake up with minimal commitments (which is most days), that literary devil on my left shoulder suggests that it's a nice day for a walk. Why don't we just stroll up Connecticut Avenue and see where we wind up?... And, right on cue, up pops the angel on my right shoulder to remind me that there's a bookstore up there, and we're trying to save money. Avoid temptation, Carolyn, avoid temptation...

It's a daily struggle. Most days, I succeed. Most days I can prevent myself from strolling up the street and perusing the bookstore. Inertia is a powerful ally in that battle. But it doesn't stop the visions of much-desired books dancing in my head...evidence of things hoped for.

Some days, when I don't succeed in staying out of the store, I can still refrain from buying books by just enjoying the ambiance of being around them. When this happens, my friends and boyfriend find considerable amusement in watching me persuade myself not to buy books, and (when I give in) when I decide which books to pick up. They enjoy my anguish, the fiends.

My boyfriend and I once looked in the window of a bookstore after it had closed for the night. He laughed as he watched my face. Said it looked like a little kid's on Christmas morning. I said that was appropriate, since my usual Christmas morning also involves rejoicing over newly acquired books. He understands-- he is a fellow book-lover, but he has better self-control in bookstores than I do. I usually make him hold my wallet if I don't want to splurge on new books.

The fact is that no matter how much I value the ideal of simple living-- and I do-- my books are my greatest obstacle. The best I can do is to give some of them away when I am done with them, and not be too obsessed with getting them back. I remind myself that they are best enjoyed by all. Literacy is not supposed to be an elite activity. Everyone should be able to read. I know this, I believe this.

...But I love my books. Can I have more, please?

1 comment:

Katie said...

True. Story. 'Nough said.