It all started innocently enough. I got my books free at first. My parents pushed picture books and easy readers like the Golden Books at me. Then I got into the good stuff – Dr. Suess’s Hop on Pop, Cat in the Hat, and the “primo” Green Eggs and Ham.
There was no turning back. Dolls or toys for my birthday or Christmas? I didn’t want no stinkin’ toys! Gimme books! And they happily fed my addiction. The piles started building. Books crammed my shelves, towered on my bureau, and scattered across my floor.
The Methadone Equivalent
Oh, I tried to cut down and quit. I can still remember the rush of my first library card (restricted to the children’s room at first). It was amazing! I could bring lots of books home with me! Of course, I had to return them, but then I could get another stack to take home for a while. Brilliant! Genius!
I made my acquaintance with Beatrix Potter and Dr. Doolittle. I swam in the high of new worlds and new characters. When I got my “adult” card, I hit dizzying heights. There was just so much to read – fiction, biographies, histories, how-to books. I almost overdosed.
Every Saturday I would head out to the library. I would cruise the card catalog, pull out a drawer, and run my fingers through the cards, the scent of countless others who had gone before wafting up.
Then I would saunter through the stacks, caressing the bindings as I went. I’d stop, pull out a book, and read the synopsis on the cover. Maybe I’d put it back to revisit another time. Maybe I’d tuck in under my arm to bring home for a an intimate snuggle.
Falling Off the Bookmobile
But then, I grew up, and trips to the library became rare. There was no time to stop in, and it was too far away. This is where I started getting into real trouble. I started buying books from bookstores. The problem was that I didn’t have a lot of extra money.
“I have to have this book! If I glue the soles back on my shoes, I can squeeze a couple of more weeks out of them,” I’d rationalize.
I couldn’t sustain that kind of spending for too long, so I ended up in the book buying “underground.” Yes, I’m talking about yard sales, estate sales, flea markets, and thrift stores. I got The Federalist Papers for a quarter, for crying out loud! Who could pass that up?
The library itself has become a book-buying source. There are fewer and fewer books on the shelves to borrow. They are being migrated to THE BOOK SALE, where you can get a bagful for $1.
“Wanna sign up to borrow e-books?” the librarian huskily whispered as I clutched my bag and plunked down my $1. I hid my face in my hands and sobbed, “Yes!”
The Book Pipeline
The Internet has proved calamitous to my addiction. Now, I don’t even have to leave my house to get used books. I can get them delivered from sites like Alibris and Thriftbooks. My fellow addicts and I rotate our books in a circle of readers. Only the Postal Service knows the volume we move.
E-books don’t help, either. If I’m not buying discount books from Amazon, I’m downloading free books from Project Gutenberg. (Although e-books are convenient, I still like the feel of a real book, with pages to turn.)
There is no hope that I’ll ever contain my addiction. Recently, my grandson visited and marveled at the number of books I owned. He looked over the books loaded into the built-in shelves in the guest room.
“Which ones would you like to take home with you?”
And so it goes…