I used to have a bookmark with a quotation by Cicero: A room without books is like a body without a soul. I must have a lot of soul, too much, really. Books are the main reason that moving is such a pain, literally. Anyone who owns hundreds of books can testify to this. The only good thing I can say about moving books is that they aren’t as fragile as most kitchen stuff; it’s harder to break them. I must have moved thousands of books over my lifespan. Many of my books have even made a transatlantic journey . . . twice. Most have traveled across country and I’ve lost track how many times they’ve been moved within the same city. Now that I’m getting ready to move back to my house, I notice that the two books I brought to the rental house at the end of May have somehow multiplied many times over. The rental furniture package didn’t include bookcases (can you imagine?!), so they rest on a shelf in the enormous master closet until I can find them a proper bookshelf when I return to my home.
I have always loved books. I never considered being labeled a ‘bookworm’ as an insult. I had very few books as a child and have almost no memories of being read to when I was young. We belonged to the Dr. Seuss book club one year and I remember my mother teaching me to read ‘Hop on Pop.’ It was love at first sight! I was a quick learner when it came to reading, partly because I needed a way to entertain myself back in those days of very little TV and partly to keep up with all the older kids in the neighborhood. They would put on plays based on comic books and I had to keep up with my lines or leave. I kept up. Now and then I’d get a few books from the school book club, but I had a very small allowance, so I didn’t get many. This was a time before the giant bookstores had spread to most parts of America. There weren’t many shopping malls either and no small chain bookstores existed in my town. Mostly I looked at the book section in our local drugstore. It had a long shelf of paperbacks next to the magazines. I would read a little bit of the books I liked every day after school until I had enough money to buy them. Then I would read them over and over in my bedroom, ignoring my mother’s demands to spend time with the rest of the family in the darkened TV room.
I love libraries and bookstores. I like visiting libraries, looking at the new books, watching the young kids during story time. I spent many years of graduate school researching in university libraries and love the musty smell of old books. Is that weird? Perhaps, but I don’t care. Nowadays I tend to wander through bookstores more often than libraries. It costs more but there are no due dates to worry about. A self-proclaimed magazine junkie, I’ll browse the shelves for my favorites and sometimes select a magazine about a topic unknown to me, just to see what it’s like. I wander around the various areas in the store to see what’s new and interesting, taking it in – all that knowledge and experience just waiting to be absorbed. I find all the colors and shapes and textures of books appealing. I do judge a book by its cover, though I know I shouldn’t. I’ve been known to buy books simply because I liked the look of them, and usually I’m not disappointed when I venture inside to their pages. I also like the energy of being around people without actually having to interact with them. That’s my loner self showing up again. I think most bookworms must be loners to some degree.
Now and then I contemplate buying one of the e-readers on the market. Then I wouldn’t need more and more bookshelves and moving a library of e-books would be a lot easier on the back. But there’s something I like about holding a book, turning its pages, sometimes bending down the corner of a favorite section or marking a quotation I find interesting or funny. I admit to being a book pusher and want to be able to lend books to friends. Sometimes I sell or donate books I finish, but often I keep them, up on some shelf, ready for rereading and eventually to be packed with hundreds more the next time I move. My aching back will just have to deal with it.