I am an addict. Evidence of my long standing addiction is evident in every room of my home, even the kitchen and both bathrooms. I must feed my habit daily and to that end, I spend vast amounts of money. I married a man who shared the same addiction. Even more damning is the fact that I have exposed my three children to the same addiction and they too are addicted. It is a case of classic co-dependence and we all enable one another to maintain our habit.
Because of our habits, we stand out among the community. My children differ from their peers and my husband is the odd man out at work. I am known for frequenting the few local spots that cater to those who share my addiction and our family’s fascination is well known. In fact, I earn my living trading in the same commodity to which we are addicted.
What is the addiction? It is not drugs nor alcohol nor food but books. Yes, books! I was addicted early to a love of books, to an appreciation of words and enjoyment of story. There may well be a genetic predilection toward a love of books because my mother read to me before I was out of diapers. My collection of Little Golden Books was vast; there were few volumes available that I did not own and on each trip to the supermarket, I almost always netted another book.
I learned to read early, to bury my nose deep within the pages of a story and although I delighted in books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, stories about girl detective Nancy Drew, and teenager Donna Parker, I read adult novels long before I was an adult.
Gone With The Wind was my first grown-up favorite novel. I read my parents’ book-of-the-month copy until it literally fell apart into two halves and my father bought me my own edition – a volume I still have and treasure. Other favorites included A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith and The Legend of the Seventh Virgin by Victoria Holt. I was and remain an eclectic reader.
At our neighborhood library in the city where I was raised, I must have been both delight and trial to the librarians. Part of the summer reading program in those days was to tell the librarian about the books I read. I delivered a complete synopsis for each book that was so detailed that one librarian joked that she would never need to read the book because I provided the complete story.
After moving to a small town I was impatient to reach my fourteenth birthday so that I could check out adult books and at school I often scandalized the school librarian by checking out eight or ten books at a time.
During my college years, I all but lived in the quiet, book-filled spaces of the campus library. I studied there and I spent much of my leisure time there.
There is no room in my home without books in large quantities. Three bookcases with shelves double and tripled lined with books are in the living room; the kitchen has a shelf just for cookbooks and other volumes; each bathroom has a bookshelf and my bedroom is beyond description. I have shelves of books, stacks of books, drawers filled with books and a large storage tote filled with more books. My children’s bedrooms are much the same.
My vast collection of books contains everything from The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (which in response to a question I’ve fielded countless times, yes, I do and have read), to old classics like Oliver Twist and The Shepherd of the Hills and The Four Million by O. Henry to recent bestsellers like The Time Travelers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger and The Husband by Dean Koontz. Fiction is not my sole choice; non-fiction books of every description crowd for space beside the novels.
If it has words, I’ll read it and I’ll finish any book that I begin. That is a legacy from one of my grandfathers who always finished a book because he figured he would learn at least one thing from it. So no matter how poorly a book is written or how slow paced the story I muddle on through.
As a writer myself, my tastes have become jaded. It takes more to impress or engage me but then isn’t that the way of an addiction – that the need requires more to become satisfied?
Now that my three children are in school, I make several trips a week to the library. I visit book stores often and Amazon.com has become my new best friend for finding books I covet.
Despite a schedule that doesn’t begin to define “busy”, I read as often as possible. I read during my solitary weekday lunch, before I go to sleep at night, and in snatches. I read the daily newspaper, magazines, and always books. I am most often reading more than one book concurrently and at my desk I am surrounded by books I use for reference as I write. I read to my children; they sometimes read to me.Thank goodness my addiction is portable because my books travel along on vacation and to any place where I must wait.
I am addicted and I have no desire to cure my addiction; it is a lifelong and necessary part of my daily existence and I cannot imagine life without literature. And, I’ve done my best to hook my children on the same addictive substance so that they too will spend a life time addicted to books.