I have always lived surrounded by books.
As a child, it was normal to check out at least twenty titles a month from the library and receive copious amounts of literature on holidays and birthdays. I assumed that it was common for people to constantly run out of shelf space and have long discussions about where to put new bookcases. The first thing we thought about while renovating was where we were going to put new shelves. Books have always mattered intensely to my family, and I thought that everyone else felt the same way.
Of course, by the time that I was school-age, it became quite obvious that the rest of the world did not operate as a mirror image to my home life. Some people don’t know what lentils are or prefer to spend large amounts of time watching television. We all make different choices about how to spend our free time that–as long as no one is being hurt–are all equally valid. But I still can’t shake my surprise that other people don’t care for books the way I do.
Last year, I read easily over a hundred books for school and pleasure. It wasn’t hard, and I still feel like I should have read more. I could have spent a lot less time on tumblr and watching The Office. I still feel like I have a huge book debt left over from high school when I was too busy to read over forty books a year.
Besides, I like to use books to sort of spy on people. When I’m at someone’s house, I love reading the titles of books they have lying about. You can learn quite a bit about someone from what they’re reading. (i.e. Audrey’s bookshelf is littered with books about the Middle East, a testament to her passion for social activism and human rights, and works from the Beat Generation, reflecting her interest in counterculture.) It’s a wonderful way to gain insight into their lives. Free time is limited, and people rarely read something they don’t have any form of connection to. The books we read are extensions of ourselves and our interests.
My bookshelves are stuffed, books cram my desk and bedside table and sit on the floor in rather precarious towers. I own fat tomes about American history and silly YA romances. I have Salinger’s complete works inches from my pillow, and I keep a few books in bed with me. (I’ve woken up with weird crease marks on my face too many times to count.) Test prep books and heavily annotated school texts sit in two fat stacks in a corner, banished as far away as the room’s perimeter will allow. If you were to look at the hundreds of titles in my room, you’d have a fair understanding of my personality and interests without ever meeting me.
I simply can’t imagine a life without books.
Day two of being sick draws to close. I think I managed to bruise my nose by hitting my face on a cabinet.
Here’s a third of my books that are currently without a home in a bookshelf. This is the stack of books I’ve purchased or been given in the past six months. I’ve read all of them.