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A junkie by any other name

Hi. My name is MC, and I’m an addict.

But before you go thinking I’m mainlining vodka, let me clarify: I’m a book lover. A bibliophile. A … oh, let’s just face it. I’m a book junkie.

Maybe you are too.

Do you have a backlog of books that would see you through three bird flu pandemics? Do you swear you’re just there to sell when you walk into your neighborhood used book store (Used Book Heaven on Siesta Key being my absolute favorite!) but somehow always end up leaving with even more books than you brought in?

Would you rather have a new book than a new pair of shoes? (Believe me, there are women out there right now … jonesin’ for a book … wearing flip flops.)

Do you have a pile of books next to your bed? Worse, have you ever rolled over in the middle of the night and found a book under the covers with you?

Welcome to my world.

I knew I had a book-buying problem when I moved from Boston to Sarasota and spent days packing books and only a couple of hours packing clothes.

I love everything about books – even the endings. But I’m ruthless when it comes to determining whether a book, once read, deserves a permanent spot on one of my cinder-block bookshelves. A book has to move me in some way – intellectually, emotionally. If it does that, I don’t care if it’s “War and Peace” or “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” it’s a keeper.

(Come to think of it, shouldn’t I use that same criteria for men?)

I’m not a book snob. Read whatever you like … as long as you read. Having said that, I admit I follow the old-school “bookshelves are a peek into personality” line of thinking.

As gifts, books are far and away better than bling. They’re made to be signed, inscribed, have their page corners folded over. You know a book is loved when lines of ink are drawn under sentences or giant exclamation points follow some writer’s thoughts.

In the order of things I’d save if a hurricane was hurtling toward Sarasota: my cats, a lifetime of letters and journals, and a few books that I just wouldn’t want to live without:

Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet.” I read this many moons ago and the poor thing is beyond dog-eared. Barely a year goes by that I don’t reread it to remind myself to “live the questions.”

The way to a man’s heart may be through his stomach (I don’t think Playboy’s got that memo yet), but the way to this woman’s heart is through Thoreau. My fantasy weekend includes an evening spent at a bed and breakfast, curled up on a couch in the drawing room, crackling fire, guests floating in and out, and me thumbing through “Walden” with a man at my side who’s not only read it but who knows how to “put the foundations” under love’s airy castles.

“The Prince.” Tell people you’re reading Machiavelli and they’ll secretly wonder about your moral compass. They’ll immediately think, “the ends justify the means” – words he never wrote, by the way, or “it’s better to be feared than loved,” which is a misguiding misquote. Machiavelli did say it’s safer “to be feared than to be loved.” But there’s a big difference between “better” and “safer” — believe me, I know. His treatise on defending one’s kingdom should be required reading, and if I adhere to any method of safeguarding my life, my reason, my raison d’être– it’s Machiavelli’s.

And, “Hamlet.” Well, the entire play is magnificent of course, but it’s Hamlet’s soliloquy that has carried me through the dark times — “Thus conscience does make cowards of us all.” As an official member of Over-Analyzer’s Anonymous, I know the damage and the benefits of over-thinking, but regardless, his words — the power behind “To be, or not to be …” Well, it’s hard to stay down when you’ve got the Bard’s words daring you to stand up.

Books feed our souls. They transport us to the world of possibility. They live with us like summer loves, briefly, but beautifully. They … oh, let’s cut the crap.

The best thing about books is that they get you good and drunk.

On life.

Posted on December 20th, 2008Comments RSS Feed
2 Responses to A junkie by any other name
  1. I would probably be a book-junkie if I could only read…

  2. Mary, what a truly wonderful story and think it may bring out a lost of “closet” book addicts like myself. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent downtown Detroit browsing old and rare books at John King Used & Rare Books. John King Used & Rare Books, houses one of the largest used & rare book collections in the Midwest. Once in the late 1800’s it was once an old brick, 4 or 5 story clothing warehouse. I used to love walking through the front entrance on a bistering, cold wintery day, saying hi to the sales personnel, walking past the old stuffed animal heads up the stairs. Every floor was wooded with wooden beams. You can hear the floor creak as you walked through the aisles. I loved looking at the very first copies of National Geographic magazines, picking up and holding a leather bound book dating back to the late 1700’s. Mary, like you, I had no intention of walking out with an armload of books, but so darn hard to resist. They had a special building in the back where you needed a sales rep. to go ith you. There, you found original first editions of Hemingway, Frost, Dickens, so many literary authors to mention. It was amazing to hold pages of original manuscripts and a feeling I can’t explain. But yes Mary, you are so correct as nothing compares the browsing of old books, the smell when you hold them….ok, I’m a book junkie!
    Take care Mary and thank you for sharing your story. … Oh, a book that began my reading of Literature; “A Moveable Feast” – Hemingway, truly a gem.


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