Thursday and Susan Sarah here…
We just had our downstairs floors done, changed from blah-beige carpeting to golden hardwood, and they are bee-yoo-ti-ful. And we had to move practically everything out of those rooms. Much of it ended up in the garage (and some of it is still there).
We also had to deal with all the books in the living room, several tall bookcases crammed full. My husband, a patient and uncomplaining soul, has tolerated my book addiction for many years; he’s also tall and strong–handy qualities for the husband of a book addict. Now and then we move the books and bookcases around for various and sundry reasons: I might be painting walls or bookcases, or I might shift these research books downstairs and those upstairs; or I might, and regularly do, change my mind about the furniture arrangements. When you have a house full of books and bookcases, as well as a big family, the function and status of the rooms changes now and then (one of my kids has his own place now, so that turf recently came up for grabs, and a switcheroo took place)–and so the books sometimes get moved, shifted, reorganized. There’s a lot of responsibility (and physical hassle) in owning and maintaining tons of books.
A room without books is like a body without a soul. — Cicero
Once the floors were in (gorgeous!), the rooms looked huge with all those books gone, and only simple furniture in them. Spacious, clean, lovely, and after a few days of that…somehow empty. The stories, the history, the word-pictures, the thoughts, the stimulating ideas, the patterns of shape and color, the reassuring smell, look, and cozy comfort of that surrounding of books was gone. And I missed it like a security blanket.
For a week I fielded comments from well-meaning, but not bibliophilic, family members. "Why do you keep all those books anyway?" "Now that you have them in the garage, you can go through them and get rid of most of them." Why keep them?! What, get RID of most of them?! Clearly they don’t live on the same planet I do, Planet Bibliophilia.
Why DO I keep all these books? It’s not easy to answer, or fathom. It’s like an instinctive thing. I have to have books around me. We resonate, books and I, and I don’t feel quite right without full bookcases somewhere nearby.
I cannot live without books. – Thomas Jefferson
OK, even I can admit I can live without a lot of these books. I haven’t cracked open some of those pages in years. Some I’ve never read but fully intend to do so. I’m not a hoarder or a packrat in other areas of my life, I don’t get overly attached to things and I can let go of other Stuff. Books are my weakness.
From time to time I glean through the titles and give boxes and boxes away to the local library. But when I sit down to glean or reorganize, hours later I might have a teeny stack of books I can live without, and a bigger stack of books I can’t part with, and a big stack of books to add to the TBR pile, because I forgot I had that one, or really want to read this one again, or always meant to read that one. I can get excited just discovering a book on my shelves that I had forgotten was there.
What is it about the books? There are several aspects to the craving and the compulsion — it’s a complex thing, this bibliophilic syndrome. There is something addictive in the smell and look and feel of books. Is there a substance in paper and binding glue that produces endorphins in certain people? *g*
Maybe it’s the stimulation of constant flows of ideas and images in the minds of cerebral types, especially creative, imaginative cerebral types. Stories and good storytelling spark the mind, inspire, uplift, can make us better, more thoughtful, more interesting folk than maybe we were without the books we’ve read (that is, if we are among The Susceptible). For me, it’s not just fiction–I find history and research not only fascinating in themselves, but also great vehicles for stimulating ideas for my own stories.
So what is it about book lust? A lot of us share the affliction, and we understand it in others. Are your own rooms jampacked with books and bookcases? Do you crave, hoard, and drool over books, as well as read them? Do you wander into bookstores and get lost there, do you lose track of time and end up buying books when you only meant to look? Do you constantly read three or four, or seven books at once? Why do you think we, the book-cravers and biblio-addicts, are so ‘flicted?
"So there you have it, a lifetime of first smelling the books, they all smell so wonderful, reading the books, loving the books, and remembering the books." — Ray Bradbury