Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Geek Indulgence #2: Books

I have moved almost every year for the last ten years. It's a pain every time, to go through all of my belongings and wonder how I ever accumulated so much, sort and pack, and then load into some type of vehicle for transport, then unload at new residence and unpack, resort, and put away. Goodness, it makes me tired just thinking about it. But through it all, despite the hassle, I've adamantly kept and added to my collection of very heavy books. My husband may protest (but I tell him he has no grounds since I deal with all of the boxes of books myself), our movers may secretly hate me, and others may just plain not understand, but I love my books.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning said it best:
"No man can be called friendless who has God
and the companionship of good books."
I was a little offended by the new iPad commercials (despite my actually owning one) that talk about how much better an iPad is because you can fit so many, still bookmark and highlight, search, etc...but one thing the iPad can't do is replicate the smell of books, the texture of the pages, and the impressive display that they make on a bookcase. I love being able to look over at my 5x5 Expedit and see all my books out; it's like looking through a photo album of one's dear friends. Wow, I sound like a geek.

No, but seriously, my books are indeed my friends. When I was in elementary school, I had a significant lack of like-minded friends. Sure, I had friends who I would hang out with on the playground, but it was only because they had no other friends either. And being friends because no one else wants to be around you does not a strong friendship make. So eventually I figured this out (and also got over my feeling that I should be like everyone else and run around the yard) and began bringing books out with me during recess. In middle school, I would scarf down my lunch so that I could go back up to Mrs. Allen's room to read in the back. In high school, during my free mods I would go to the library and hang out there with a book (the Lowell library has the best old book smell, hands down). When I was lonely every time I moved to a new place, I would reread my favorites, and coming upon familiar passages brought the same rush of joy that comes with seeing a familiar face.
Beautiful embroidery by Crafster PirateColey.
When I'm out of sorts and I feel like I need a good cry, I pull out my guaranteed tear-jerkers (the end of The Time-Traveller's Wife or Where the Red Fern Grows, the part in Deathly Hallows when Snape says "Always," when Lyra leaves Pantalaimon in The Amber Spyglass; I know, I'm such a sucker for these types of scenes). One of my big dilemmas is always whether I should reread an old favorite, or venture into the unknown to discover a new one.

I really have my dad to thank for my love of books; every night, growing up, he would read to us from our actually fairly significant library of kids books. I still associate the hardcover Disney Cinderella book with him, and he says that he even began calling me Cindy because I loved that book so much. We were fortunate that the library was walking distance from our house, because that meant that as soon as we were old enough to cross the street on our own, we could trek to the library and bring back the maximum, twenty-one books. I guess my dad knew what he was doing, since a library trip pretty much guaranteed absolute quiet in the house for at least two days. Unfortunately, it also guaranteed no chores being done and staying up late under the covers with a flashlight. If he wanted to run errands quickly and didn't want to find someone to watch us, he'd drop us off at the bookstore so that the newest arrivals could babysit us. The worst threat was always "Or else no more reading!" This obsession with reading led to the three major blots on my pre-high school academic career -- an F on a spelling test in third grade (I didn't even realize a test was going on because I was reading a book about pirates) and my only two detentions in middle school (both times I was reading a book under my desk instead of paying attention).

One of my favorite things about moving is getting to go through my bookcase and look at each book, remembering what I loved about it, when I first read it, and what significant life events are connected to it. A new apartment never feels like home until my books are back in their rightful places in the bookcase. I love our current apartment partly because its layout means that my books are prominently on display, as opposed to tucked in a corner. Inspired by GeekDad Jonathan Liu's map of his bookcases, here's mine:
Some of these cubbies are almost primarily gifted by friends, some are thrift store and library sale acquisitions, and a few are the actual books that I carried around with me as a nine year old.

 My husband knows that if he wants to never hear from me again, he just needs to drop me off in a bookstore. I think he's more or less resigned to finding books in random places -- not just my nightstand or the coffee table, but also on top of the microwave (so that I can maximize time and stir risotto while reading) and taking up valuable real estate around our tiny sink (toothbrushing time is prime reading time!). Hopefully, when we have kids, I can inspire this same love of reading as my dad did for me. Although I promise not to confuse a bookstore with a babysitter.


  1. Just found your website via One Pretty Thing--love the reincats. So was reading this on books and I share your passion. I wouldn't want an e-reader because would be dangerous to the e-reader to read in the Bath which is my ultimate luxury. To me, libraries are always a "safe" place to stay and linger. My kids are all avid reader since both me and my husband read alot--just rubs off on them like you and your dad. My 19 year old daughter request for present is still always--books, of course.

  2. i was the only kid in my class who loved standardized testing week...i could finish the test quickly and then read a book for the rest of the morning! the only time this bit me on the rear was on the AP history test. probably shouldn't have skimmed that one. and i almost got thrown out of my SAT sitting because the proctor thought i was looking up words, not finished with the test, when i pulled out my paperback. (which, incidentally, was almost certainly a mercedes lackey tome. that was my major ML phase)

    1. I think we are secret sisters...I totally felt the same way about standardized testing! I've only been reading ML since college, but it really is the perfect post-standardized test reading, being mostly easy on the brain.


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