Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore? –Henry Ward Beecher
With the office rearranged and (mostly) organized, I see clearly my bibliophilia. It’s not a surprise to me, since I’ve loved reading since I first learned how. When I was a little kid, I used to read an English dictionary while riding the bus. When my older brother entered high school, I’d borrow his literature book when it happened to be lying around.
Our family always had books at home, whether library books or the old hardcovers passed on from other family members; e.g. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn with its advertisement urging readers “Buy War Bonds!” Once in a very great while, my teacher hung a book publisher’s poster in the classroom and my mother let me order something.
It was so much fun looking at cover art, reading titles and blurbs, and finally selecting the best one. My best friend Tōn was my consultant, since we both loved books. I still recall the thrill of receiving the enormous paperback of Watership Down. It was the biggest children’s book I’d ever seen, a novel I read and re-read until even tape couldn’t keep the pages in the broken spine.
When I turned 18 and moved away from home, I shed a lot of books. Robert Frost managed to follow me through various moves, until I replaced his battered and yellowed paperback with a hardcover. That became the test of how much I loved a book: Did I want a hardcover edition?
Yet with a career and greater use of technology, I found myself not reading in my leisure time. I read most of the day – e-mails, instructions, breaking news, and random blog posts – until reading seemed like a chore. I began to understand G.K. Chesterton’s comment that “There is a great deal of difference between an eager man who wants to read a book and the tired man who wants a book to read.”
At the same time, my personal library still grew. Friends bought me books. Colleagues made recommendations. My brain tricked me: Look, the library is selling old books, and there’s one that EVERYONE read – except you! (Yes, that’s my brain on books.)
Now my collection contains a little of everything: history, art, poetry, philosophy, and novels. Last year I donated boxes of them to the library, but there are still so many – and I’m not including e-books! This year, I’m reading what I have, both to enjoy and to cull.
I’m going to call it Bibliophilia Unleashed! Or maybe The Book Project, just to keep it simple (and since spellcheck suggests “bibliophilia” is NOT a real word.)