I know I have a problem.
Everyone knows I have a problem.
It’s kind of hard to hide.
The moment you step inside my house, it’s obvious. The books are everywhere. They don’t confine themselves to the bookshelves. I suppose that would be impossible since the shelves are packed tighter than Depression Era tenements. There are piles of books on my desk, my daughter’s desk, the bedside table, the kitchen table, the dining room table, and the lamp table in the living room. Pretty much any flat surface in the house is game, including the floor.
The floor is where my latest arrivals are currently huddled – a half dozen paperback volumes of varying size and genre. When I got them home yesterday I realized that there wasn’t anywhere to put them. I stood in the middle of my house, cradling my finds in the crook of my arm while I scanned all the usual landing spots, but found that they were all full to capacity. With a beleaguered sigh and a silent apology to the books, I tucked the small stack gently into the corner between my desk and a tower of plastic file boxes (which was already topped with my collection of Poets & Writers magazines).
I didn’t mean to come home with more books.
My daughter and I were enjoying an easy-breezy afternoon of window-shopping in Newburyport. We were wandering through shops filled with dresses, antiques, jewelry, and other unnecessary items. It was all perfectly harmless.
And then we reached the corner bookstore.
I was surprised when my daughter led the way through the welcoming open doors. I’d figured she’d breeze right past. But, no – she stepped purposefully over the threshold and began browsing the staff picks. I followed eagerly and, once I’d managed to pry my eyes away from the first few books that grabbed my attention, realized that the store was in quite a state of disarray. Turns out, the whole place was being reorganized and restocked in preparation for a major renovation that would include the addition of a café.
Despite the general chaos, there was still plenty to explore. I poked around in the almost empty young adult section and found a paperback copy of the 30th anniversary edition of On Writing Well. Though I have many (many) other books on the writing craft – I talked myself into buying “just one more” and took my selection up to the register.
But, you probably want to know how one book turned into six.
Well, it happened like this. After enrolling me in the store’s frequent buyer program and ringing up my purchase, the bookseller called out to his colleague, “I’m just going to take a picture of the free book frenzy out front. Dad gets a kick out of these things.”
I whipped around and immediately located the melee – a group of otherwise innocent passersby were pawing aggressively through several boxes of free books that were sitting on the sidewalk just outside the door.
Had those been there when we’d walked in? How did I miss them?
I dashed towards the mostly courteous free-for-all, grabbing my daughter on the way out. Free books! What a find! What luck! A small voice in my head admonished that I had enough books already – more than enough – but a louder voice argued that it was fate and I shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth and … and … FREE BOOKS!
The louder voice won out and soon I was scrabbling through the boxes’ contents alongside my fellow bibliophiles. Behind me, my daughter groaned dramatically, “Mom, really?” But I was too far gone. I didn’t even turn around.
It all happened so fast. I entered a sort of altered state, quickly sifting through the hodge-podge collection of remainders and advance reader copies. The covers passed before me in a psychedelic parade of conceptual images and tempting titles – an exotic feast of heretofore-unknown treasures. I skimmed back cover blurbs with such speed that you would have thought I was trying to beat the countdown on a ticking time bomb. Around me, the other book lovers jostled gently for position, queuing up in random patterns around the cluster of cardboard boxes like hungry sparrows at a backyard feeder.
I reached for a book with a particularly promising cover, but a hand flashed between me and my prey and scooped the title up before I even had a chance to properly identify it. For a brief moment a wave of indignation rose up in my booksick heart, but then I saw whose hand it was. My daughter grinned at me and clutched her prize with great satisfaction. I had to smile. For all her grumbling, here she was, proving that the love of books may in fact (thank the gods) be hereditary.
It’s not that I want to encourage any addictive behavior in my daughter, but – if she must be addicted to anything or have too much of something in her life – I am happy to think that that something might be books. After all, I’ve suffered this affliction all my life, and I’ve turned out all right.
Image Credit: From The Library (affiliate link) by Sarah Stewart, illustrated by David Small