A room without books . . . (69)

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.

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8 Responses to A room without books . . . (69)

  1. shoshwrites says:

    Alex – I got the bookmark originally at Barnes & Noble, so they may eventually have it again. I may get an e-reader eventually, but I’ll never stop buying books!

  2. Alex. says:

    I had the same bookmark. The irony is I lost that in a house move and I have never managed to find the same one again. Like you I had boxed and shipped hundreds of books from country to country. A couple of years ago I decided I was never going to reread them so a friend has benefited as she took them all and everything I have read since.

    I was wary of the e-book readers but I am now a convert and although there are still some things I will always buy as real books I now save a lot of loft storage space.

  3. shoshwrites says:

    And that’s why I wander into a bookstore 2-3 times a month!

  4. Tammy says:

    I have an e-reader and have gotten so used to buying books that way that I forgot the wonderful serendipity of traversing the bookstore until last month, ironically enough, I had to find a Barnes and Noble to buy my friend a nook gift card for her birthday.
    I could not drag myself out of the store – there were too many things to look at and check out! As convenient as it is to browse through books online, it’s nothing compared to the richness of being in the store and having all these ideas, pictures, and paper laid out around me. I’d completely forgotten what a treat it was to wander through a book store!

  5. shoshwrites says:

    So true – nothing can replace the beauty of real books with all their shapes, colors, and sizes! I’ve thought about the Kindle Fire, so let me know how you like it!

  6. Mary Jo Powell says:

    You can judge a book by its cover. If the cover is a mess or ugly or wrong in some other way, someone–either the publisher or the author–has poor taste and that does not bode well for the text. And I have just ordered a KIndle Fire because I have nightmare memories of being on a Turkish ship and finishing the last book I bought with me. I still prefer real books and I don’t look forward to the day when you will not be able to guess about strangers’ personalities and lives from looking at the covers of the books they are reading. Airports and coffee shops will be less interesting when everyone has a Kindle or Nook.


  7. shoshwrites says:

    It’s tempting to get a new gadget, but . . . unless I start traveling a lot (when an e-reader can be an advantage), I am resisting!

  8. I know exactly what you mean about “the feeling of books”, I have also considered a nook but no nook will ever replace a book!

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