Thursday, March 15, 2012

Book Worm

I have a confession to make...I have an addiction - I'm addicted to reading. I've read so many books in just the past year alone that I can't remember them all, much less count them. Forty? Fifty? One hundred? It's such a nerdy addiction - unlike the much sexier cocaine or alcohol dependence so many celebrities have that media loves to celebrate - but it's just as all-consuming. I can't go a single day without reading something substantial; I can't travel without a book in tow; I can't fall asleep unless I read in bed; if I see someone else reading a book I become obsessed with discovering what they're reading and if it's a book I haven't read then I long to read it myself; as soon as I finish reading a book I immediately begin reading another; I won't form lasting relationships with people who don't read; if I particularly enjoy what I'm reading then I neglect household chores and basic body maintenance, like showering; I often don't return books that I've borrowed and I sometimes "borrow" books without making it known at all.

Some of my fondest childhood memories are of my siblings and me curled around books at the library, where my father would take us on weekends. I don't remember exactly how old I was when I began to devour books, but I'm fairly certain my parents coerced me into reading so that I would entertain myself in the van during our frequent family road trips instead of driving them mad with my incessant complaining. Apparently it worked and I have been the proverbial book worm for as long as I can remember. Clearly it's an addiction that I will never break. But let's be honest, I'm deeply accepting of my reading addiction and will never contemplate quitting, Reader's Anonymous be damned!

Sometimes, though, my reading addiction does bring forth feelings of guilt. Is reading a hobby for lazy people? Do I love reading so much because it's something I can do in my underwear, with greasy,unwashed hair, without having to step a foot outdoors? If reading fiction (which is what I read most often) is meant to be a form of escapism, does my reading addiction imply that I'm always trying to escape from my reality? Since I finish reading one book and begin the next book right away, like a prose chain smoker, does that mean I'm not fully appreciating the literature? Should I reflect on what I've read for more than a few minutes? Should I join a book club? Should I write book reports and post them on this blog? Or should I shamelessly forge ahead with my reading addiction and dive into any book I can get my hands on? These are real questions I think about and have been unable to answer any of them but the last - with a resounding yes.

To make matters worse, the invention of electronic readers, like Kindle and Nook, have fueled my addiction much like the invention of tanning beds have made obsessive tanners even darker (and more prone to skin cancer). At first I was opposed to the e readers because they seemed too technological, too modern, too boring. I felt that part of the beauty of reading was holding the book in your hands, contemplating the front cover, reading the summary on the back cover, folding the spine back and turning real pages. Plus I love the way books look when they're all lined up next to each other on a shelf - mini adventures waiting to unfold.

 I enjoy entering bookstores and libraries and seeing the neat rows and potential of the books all around me. I like visiting friends and family and looking to see what books they have on their bookshelves; I get excited when they have a book I've read or when I see a book I've been meaning to read or when I discover a book I'd never heard about at all before. This recently happened when I went home to Texas to visit my family during Christmas. I was perusing Caroline's old high school and college literature when I came upon A Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood. I asked her if I could borrow it and she said yes, followed by "it was a really good book". Usually I take opinions on books lightly but I always trust her opinions when it comes to reading material so I started reading it right away and I was totally captivated. I had never heard of Margaret Atwood before (shame on me) but then I needed to read more by her right away. And this is when I realized the true genius of the e readers.

About a year ago Chris bought me a Kindle and I hesitantly began using it. It took me a few tries to stop feeling like I was having an affair on books, but then I started to get used to its lightweight feel - the way I can just hold it in one hand and simply touch the screen to go on to the next page. When  Chris and I traveled to California I was comforted knowing that the slim Kindle fit neatly into my purse without adding any bulk. And then I realized it's most beautiful (and addictive) feature: immediate gratification - being able to download a book instantly upon finishing whatever I had been reading. Thus when I finished reading A Handmaid's Tale and I felt that I just had to read more Margaret Atwood I downloaded The Blind Assassin in my pajamas from the comfort of my bed.

So now, even though I've read every book in our condo, I never have reading withdrawals. For Christmas Kristi purchased a generous gift card from Amazon for me and I now have an Amazon wish list of books that I will soon be downloading to my Kindle as soon as I finish reading White Teeth by Zadie Smith. And like a true addict, the thought of an ample supply of reading material awaiting me makes me excited and gives me chills. Happy reading, everyone!


Anonymous said...

All this book practice makes me wait (anxiously) for your first book. Patiently waiting...


Anonymous said...

Maybe you will start writing your own books someday and let others have more access to your wonderful writing!

Ana Lucia said...

Soon after you learned to read I remember finding you many nights quietly reading under the covers, with only a flashlight ... you were supposed to be sleeping!!

You started writing your first book in second or third grade ... remember?