Hello, my name is Rebekah and I’m a biblioholic. I’ve been using books since 1967. I have, at various times, tasted them, sniffed them, written in them, slept with them, hidden them in my dresser drawers. I have occasionally spent money on them that should have been used for something else. I once spent an entire Thanksgiving Day holed up with one, barely breaking away to eat. I must admit with great regret that I have, in my youth, dog-eared them, dropped them in puddles, spattered them with cake batter, and allowed them to fall into the hands of those who treated them even more shabbily than I did.
I have learned over the years to handle books with respect, to use them responsibly. I have come to recognize that I will never be cured of the craving for them. And I have picked up some useful tips for feeding the habit…
1. Always carry a lightweight (but sturdy) shopping bag folded up in your pocket or purse. It reduces the number of those nasty plastic bags they use at checkout counters – which, as you know, are crummy for carrying books – and it alleviates the strain of trying to balance an armload of stacked-up volumes of various sizes while you’re still browsing the shelves.
2. Know what you already have. It’s happened to me more than once: I’ve brought home a great find, only to discover its identical twin already sitting on my shelf. Not that it’s a bad thing to have extra copies to lend or give away (which I’ve found are synonymous in the case of books), but I might have bought something different. For a while I carried around a paper list of my books, but it was rather inconvenient to dig through my purse for it and then drive myself cross-eyed trying to read the teeny tiny print I’d resorted to in an effort to keep it to a manageable number of pages. I utilize www.goodreads.com to keep track of my library these days.
3. Know what you need. Goodreads can serve here as well, but I’m more likely to use my phone’s camera function for this. I seem always to be collecting some series or other a volume at a time, and I’ve found the easiest way to recall which books I’m missing for which sets in which editions is to pull up a photo of what I’ve got so far.
4. Know what other people have asked you to look out for, or what you’d like to surprise them with. I’ve somehow acquired a reputation for spending a lot of time in bookstores, and people occasionally mention books they’re looking for ‘just in case I happen to come across’ them. I haven’t yet stumbled upon Ilsa or a first edition Spirits in Bondage, but I have been able to make some modest contributions to friends’ and family members’ reading enjoyment. The phone camera holds a snapshot of my daughter’s handwritten wish list; the ‘Notes’ function can also be brought to bear for this purpose.
5. Don’t ever go into a bookstore when you only have fifteen minutes. Well, I guess in certain cases it might be possible to go in and just pick up one specific book – the one you need for an assignment, or the just-released latest offering of your favorite author – but ideally, you want to have time to browse. There may be a treasure you don’t even know you need sitting unobtrusively on a bottom shelf in a corner.
Be aware that you will eventually be found out. At some point, your spouse will notice that bookcases have taken over every available inch of wall space in your house. Your children will know to start checking the bookstores when you’re late getting home. Your friend will see the corner of a book peeking out as you’re digging in your bag for a cough drop. Your mechanic will find the box of books in the trunk of your car. May you be blessed, as I am, to be surrounded by loving and supportive people – especially ones who will reach high shelves and carry heavy bags for you.