Saturday, January 20, 2018

Is there such a thing as book addiction?

Scott D. Parker

In 2018, I have started reading more mindfully. That is: choose a book, read it and finish it without being distracted by another book along the way. Note: this doesn’t apply to books I dislike. I have, and will continue to stop reading those. But the corollary to reading mindfully is to read the books on my shelves. And I have a lot of them, so many, in fact, that in order to declutter my office, I stored many in boxes and moved those boxes out of the office. What is left are the books highest on my reading list. The office is neater and my TBR pile is…still pretty huge.

But as I packed those books in boxes, I got to thinking why I had so many. It’s mainly  because I bought them all. And the reason I bought them at the time was that I wanted to read them. Mostly. You see, sometimes, I buy a book because of its cover. Or for research. Or because of a review. Or any of a myriad of reasons. The more I thought about my book-buying habits of just 2017 the more I realized a certain trait of myself: there was a good chance I would never, ever read all the books I was buying.

So why buy them?

A good and honest question. Why indeed?

Because I love books, especially used books. I love their smell, their history, and, more often than not, their classic cover art. I frequent more used bookstores than new nowadays. When the family suggests we go to Half Price, I am usually the first one out the door.

Except last weekend. You see, as I packed all my older books away, I mulled over why I keep them. If they are out of sight and out of mind, why not just sell them? Because of my emotional attachment, of course, even for those books I’ll likely never read. Moreover, I enjoy having a small library of my own—even if they are in boxes—so when a particular fancy strikes, I can go back through all those packed books and find that one paperback.

But back to addiction. It seems to me now I have been—and always have been—addicted to buying books, especially after graduating from college. Graduate school probably helped this along. Every semester, the history professors would assign books to read. Typically, there’d be one copy in the university library and, unless you were the lucky first person to check it out, it meant you’d have to buy the book. I was in grad school for five years [yikes!] and I amassed a large collection. Then there was fiction. Don’t even get me started. To paraphrase Dory from “Finding Nemo,” I just kept buying.

And not reading.

So, when I returned to Half Price the other day, it was with an air of detachment. It was an air I shrugged into even before I left the house. I told myself that, unless there was that Very Special Book, I was to buy nothing. As I strolled the aisles, I found a few things—a dozen Longarm novels, all practically brand new—I normally would have snatched up. But I put them all back and waited for my son to check out. It was an odd feeling, this detachment, and it made me wonder about folks who suffer from actual addiction issues, be it alcohol, cigarettes, chocolate, or worse. I was able to channel my active detachment for about twenty minutes. I can’t imagine doing it 24/7.

But back to the original question: is there such a thing as book addiction? For me, yes, but it is something for which I can mindfully manage.

How about you?

1 comment:

David Nemeth said...

I say, "Yes, there is a thing called book addition." Anyway, I remember Nick Hornby used to blog about the books he read and the books he bought (and hadn't read).