Monday, December 13, 2010

Confessions Of A Biblioholic

I love to read. I’m not just an avid reader, a definition that doesn’t quite describe my infatuation, I’m a shameless biblioholic with a severe addiction to reading. And I don’t read now and then, I read all the time. Day in and day out. I consume books the way I consume oxygen, inhaling as many as I can whenever I can. I have had this voracious appetite for books since I was a very young child, way before I’d even learned my ABCs. As a little girl, I’d stand on my toes and glance up at the Little Golden Books lined up on shelves in stores that I visited with my parents. Sometimes I’d take down a story, flip through the pages and spin my own yarn from the pictures on each page.

Fast forward...

As I got older and more independent (aging does have its privileges), I invaded the bookstores, stocking up on a great number of books. I read them all, title after title, author after author, cover to cover, feeding myself with every kind of story I could get my hands on. I joined book clubs and ordered in multiple numbers. Bookshelves went up and the number of books kept growing. I accumulated so much literature, at such a fast pace, that I not only had books to read but books that were waiting to be read. There wasn’t a moment where there wasn’t a novel available to replace the one I was currently getting through.

The years have continued to go by and my love for reading is just as intense. I have built a library of books in different categories - fiction, non-fiction, reference, educational, memoirs, food and drink, computers, home and garden, and so on. I read and read and read. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a novel, a magazine article or a news clipping. I read all the time. I like the sound of the pages as I flip through them. I love the smell of a new book. Sometimes I fall asleep while reading and my husband has to pull the book out from under me so I don’t wake up with book indentations on my forehead. I’ve been falling asleep with a book in hand since I was a teenager. I’m surprised I don’t have book-related craters below my hairline.
And yes, I do have a membership with a ‘frequent reader rewards’ program. I carry the card with me at all times because you never know when or where you’ll run across a bookstore catering to this membership. You might think this is a little extreme but it has paid off. A few summers ago when I was in Ottawa on July 1st to celebrate Canada day, I noticed that a nearby Chapters bookstore was open (this is a bookstore that honors my membership card). Of course, I had to step in and look around (can a compulsive reader ever bypass a bookstore?). I only bought one book (I can have remarkable self-control sometimes). It was on sale. This is a perfect example of why it’s important to carry your bookstore membership card everywhere you go.

A couple of months after that, the family and I took a trip to Maine for a few days. One rainy morning we decided to take a drive into the city of Portland and, lo and behold, we ran across a bookstore. Is that fate or what? And not just any bookstore; it was the ‘mother’ of all bookstores. It was one of the best bookstores I’d ever visited, and I have visited many over the years. My older daughter who loves to read as much as I do (a real chip off the old biblioholic block) was as excited as I was about this blessed discovery. Of course, there is never any need for words when my daughter and I encounter a bookstore; there is only an unspoken understanding – we’re going in!

The two of us dumped my husband and younger daughter outside the bookstore (or was it the other way around?) and we walked into this ‘mother’ of all bookstores together; a united bookloving front. But that’s usually as far as we venture side by side – just through the front door. As soon as we get past the entrance, we bid farewell and make a beeline to our own preferred topics of interest and favourite authors. Sometimes we cross paths and nod knowingly from a distance; book lovers don’t make small talk, they acknowledge a familiar face but have absolutely no intention on speaking to them (nor do they want to be spoken to). It is forbidden to disturb a biblioholic in a bookstore while they are scouting the area. Always. That’s proper ‘biblioholic-at-a-bookstore’ etiquette.

So we inspected the store, fell in love with the selection and picked up about half a dozen books. And yes, I did question the polite young man at the cash – lightheartedly – if this U.S bookstore would honor my Canadian bookstore membership card. I smiled. He smiled. I chuckled. He didn’t The answer was no. Well, at least I tried. But even so, I marveled at the difference in price between the bill I paid in the U.S as opposed to what I would have paid back home. After doing the math, even with the U.S exchange it cost me less to buy my paperbacks further south than what I would pay in my own back yard – considerably less (an incredible 25% less!). The sales taxes there are a modest 5% while taxes back home were a whopping 15% - on everything!


So all this to say that I am an obsessive reader. And now that I’ve come clean about my biblioholism, I’d like to recommend some of my favourite books. Just in case some of you suffer from the same addiction. And if you do, you’ve probably read most of the books listed below. Still. They’re worth mentioning.

Angela's Ashes
Frank McCourt

Blood Done Sign My Name
Timothy B. Tyson

I Know This Much Is True
Wally Lamb

Memnoch the Devil
Anne Rice

Memory Keepers Daughter
Kim Edwards

The Glass Castle
Jeannette Walls

The Kite Runner
Khaled Hosseini

We Need to Talk About Kevin
Lionel Shriver

Tuesdays with Morrie
Mitch Albom

Thousand Splendid Suns
Khaled Hosseini

So, are any of you biblioholics?


  1. My name is Beth, and I am a biblioholic. Of course, you already know that, right? :-)

    I have no trouble rationalizing my addiction, though, since I don't spend much money on clothes or my hair or my nails or tickets to concerts or sporting events. Just books

    Thanks for the list of recommendations, Martha. I've actually only read three of them (Angela's Ashes and the two Hosseini books)but I plan to check the others out next time I go to the library.

    By the way, our library sells used books to raise money. I often end up buying more books than I check out! :-)

    Great post, Martha.

  2. I'm like Beth - clothes? Hair? Why spend money on that? Books are what I need! I collect them as obsessively as plants, with the difference that I can't carry plants around with me to keep me busy on the bus or train!
    They're both a bother to move, though, as I'm just discovering again (I'm just in the middle of moving to a new apartment.)

  3. Beth, I have a library a short walk from my home, and now and then I drop in. I borrow one book to read and end up buying a half dozen used books (the library near me also sells used books to raise money!). I can't help myself, really. The used books only cost about $1, sometimes only fifty cents. And every year, we have a huge book sale with thousands of used books at fabulous prices, usually only a couple of dollars. I went last year and I went again this year. I prepare a list of books I'd love to have and search for them at the book fair. I get lucky with a lot of them and end up taking bags and bags of books home for a fraction of what it would cost me at a bookstore. I don't go to bookstores anymore because of all these cheaper ways to obtain books. Now that we bought a home with more expenses, I try to find places for my book habit that aren't costly. And like you, I don't spend money on clothes, I don't spend money on fancy hairstyles, or manicures, etc, so I don't mind buying books. Yup, music, too! Those are two pleasures that we definitely have in common.

    Ivynettle, looks like we're all in the same club. I have never in my life chased fashion or spent more money on my hair than necessary. I feel like it's such a waste. I only buy what I need when I need, very simpe things, really, and that's just enough for me. I'd rather have some money left over for books and music, which I enjoy more - and for very long periods of time. Oh, and my gardening (indoors and out), of course. Musn't forget that!

  4. I wrote a huge reply and your blog ate it! Twice! I'm a consummate bookaholic and have been my entire life. But I am not retyping this for the third time, so to summarize, I have read some of your recommendations, agree with about half, and the rest are going on Amazon's wish list. :)

  5. Oh, Tatiana, that's too bad! I would have enjoyed reading your comment because I know how much you enjoy reading (you had written about that on your blog at one point). I have no idea why blogger does that sometimes - eat comments - but it's frustrating. It's done it to me when I've written something in response to the comments on posts. Now, whenever I write a lengthy response, I copy it to notepad right before I press the 'post comment' button, just in case blogger eats what I wrote.

    Anyway, I'd be curious to know which half you agree with.


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