Tuesday, April 04, 2006

LCH: The Book Keeper

They say when you overcome one addiction, a new one pops up to take its place.

Uh-oh. I just found another one. It’s not in the dictionary, but it’s everywhere else I look, quite literally: I’m a bookaholic.

(If books aren’t your weakness, substitute the word shoes or chocolate for any of the examples below.)

Nearly a century ago, writer Ellen Thompson quipped, “My home is where my books are.” Oh, I get that. The first thing I look for in a new house? Built-in bookshelves. The last piece of furniture I bought? Bookshelves. The teensy bathroom in my office has a 12-inch sink, but don’t you love those 36-inch bookshelves?

There are nicer words for my addiction: bibliophile, a person who loves or collects books; or bluestocking, a woman with literary interests. But bookaholic tells it like it is. I crave books. Inhale books. Am miserable if I get stuck somewhere without one. Have books hidden all over the house. Carry one in my glove compartment for emergencies.

Can one indulge in book buying without losing control? And how many books are too many? Consider the following warning signs.

You may be a bookaholic if you…

1) Buy a book, take it home, then discover you already own it.
2) Read ten chapters of a book, then realize you’ve already read it.
3) Seldom go more than two weeks without a bookstore “fix.”
4) Carry frequent-reader cards for two or more bookstore chains.
5) Cannot visit a bookstore without buying something.
6) Have activated the “1-Click Ordering” option on Amazon.com.
7) Know what a TBR stack is. (“To Be Read.” My stack is scary.)

There are lesser indicators, of course. If, at yard sales, you visit the book table first,
reasoning, “Hey, they’re only 25 cents!”, that’s a telltale sign. Being a member of three book clubs could be a hint. Or maybe you tossed popcorn at the screen during the movie Sense and Sensibility when Fanny Dashwood said, “I have never liked the smell of books.”


I love the smell of books. Adore the feel of them in my hands. Delight in turning the
pages. Prefer giving books as gifts. Have fun talking about books with friends.

I’m beginning to think bookaholism might run in families. When two of my relatives traveled hundreds of miles to visit me one summer, did we admire local landmarks? Go on a picnic?
Drive through horse country?

Nooo. I took them to my favorite used bookstore and they loved it. Not hereditary, this obsession, but mighty close.

What’s a book-loving soul to do? Set up some boundaries. Here are mine:
1) I can’t buy a new book until I finish reading three books I already own.
2) I’ve renewed my library card. (For me, owning books is the problem, so this is a good discipline. So is the due date.)
3) I’ve donated old books (or ones I won’t get to for 20 years) to a local library.

Is it silly to worry about being “addicted” to buying books? Yes. And no. Any pleasure that becomes a must-have has the potential to hurt us practically and spiritually.

But books have a redeeming quality few other passions can boast: A book opened the door of my heart to God’s lovingkindness. When two friends said, “Read this,” and pointed me to C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, I did—and the insights I found among those pages changed my thinking completely.

And when Lewis pointed me to the Bible—God’s living, written Word—the timeless truths I discovered in that Good Book changed my life forever. That’s something shoe shopping, chocolate, or any other temporal pleasure can’t begin to accomplish.

For those of us who love to read, it’s comforting to know God meets his people across the printed page. That’s one “daily fix” we can enjoy without apology.

Liz Curtis Higgs, author of Grace in Thine Eyes (WaterBrook Press). http://www.lizcurtishiggs.com/.


At 2:01 AM, Blogger eileen said...

Oh what a pleasure to know I'm not the only bookaholic in the world! Shall we start a group? Hi, I'm Eileen, I'm never without a book. My children used to groan when I returned from the library...they knew dinner would be sketchy at best. Ahh, the places I've been without leaving my chair. And the love of the Lord just grows when I read Christian fiction.

At 9:02 AM, Blogger Patricia Hickman said...

My favorite frazzled bookmark says,"When I get money I buy books. If anything is left over I buy food and necessities."

bluestocking:During the 1750s, Elizabeth Vesey held evening parties, at which the entertainment consisted of conversation on literary subjects. Eminent men of the day were invited to contribute to these conversations. Boswell, in his Life of Dr. Johnson, states that these "bluestocking clubs" were so named because of Benjamin Stillingfleet, who attended in unconventional blue worsted stockings rather than the customary black silk stockings. In time the name bluestocking was applied solely to women of pedantic literary tastes.

At 9:19 AM, Blogger Ruth said...

I absolutely loved this post, Liz! I am definitely a bookaholic...and I don't want to recover! :)

At 9:43 AM, Blogger C.J. Darlington said...

I'm a proud member of BA, myself (Bookaholics Anonymous). Love that Erasmus quote, Patty.

At 10:10 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

At 1:00 a.m. last night, shut the pages of the current weekly reader (reading at least one a week right now) - could not sleep for wondering what was next in those pages....

And...yes I have books hidden ... bathroom, bedroom, desk, and living room...

and my book bag...

Count me in!

At 11:32 AM, Blogger Domino said...

I've tried to instill a delight and respect for books in my kids since they were little. I don't mind tidying up the bookshelves - because books are being read.

At 4:20 PM, Blogger Southern-fried Fiction said...

That's how I became a writer, Liz. My husband got tired of all the money I spent on books and said I should write one. I discovered I could! LOL - but I still buy too many books. That's one of the reasons I became a reviewer!! :o))

I keep our local home school co-op supplied with Christian ficiton.

At 6:43 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Oh, yes, books! I love browsing bookstores, even online bookstores (with the added bonus of keeping a wishlist for those books that I want to get to). The library definitely works for me, although mine is short in the Christian fiction and non-fiction, so that is more limited to my children's books (I'm raising one and maybe two more bookaphiles), travel books, fiction, and cookbooks. Used bookstores and thrift shops are other favorite haunts where I'm often heard saying, "Well, it's only $(fill in the blank)." Yes, books are definitely my biggest guilty pleasure, and it's hard for me to relate to someone who doesn't love them.

At 9:26 PM, Blogger Sheryl said...

Loved this post Liz! But, only one TBR stack?! Sometimes I'm afraid that one day I won't be be able to find the floor :-)

I'm very blessed to have a great library system at my disposal ... doesn't help my addiction, but does help my bank account. And, as Ane mentioned, doing book reviews is a great way to not only feed my bookaholism but to share it with others too!


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