Monday, March 12, 2007

Addiction



Last Friday I went to the dentist and came home with four books. With 3,000 + titles, I needed more books slightly less than I need another cat, but I had to pass the Mt. Sinai Hospital Resale store on my way to the El. And since I’m looking for another tall bookshelf, I had to check out their furniture. They didn’t have what I need, but they had what I crave—books. Hundreds of them. I was almost relieved to find that I already have most of the titles that caught my eye. But I didn’t have Paco Underhill’s Why We Buy: the Science of Shopping, or Margaret Maron’s Storm Track, or The Warrior’s Gift, which won an award for author Faith Mack in 1985.

A week ago, I went to the Library to write and bought The Kinsey Institute’s New Report on Sex for a quarter to go with The Science of Orgasm, which I was checking out. While I was there I called the Book Bin and ordered two books that I wanted to read—which I knew I’d never return by the due date—and I read Answering 911: Life in the Hot Seat (by Caroline Burau) so I wouldn’t have to check it out and remember to bring it back. I also got excellent copies of Innocents Abroad, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and Kim for $.25 each.

The Newberry Library had a mystery book sale on March 2nd, where I got a fine first edition of Donna Leon’s Uniform Justice for two bucks and The Scold’s Bridle by Minette Walters for one. The 1959 edition of The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft was only six dollars. How could I pass it up?

Lest you think I buy only used books, let me assure you I recently bought five new hardcovers the last time I was in the Book Bin (last week), and a new hardcover on each of my last two visits to Centuries and Sleuths (Saturday and Sunday). Nearly everyone in my family got The Book of Lost Things for Christmas, and I’ve distributed half a dozen copies of Courtroom 302 to people I thought would read it.

I have sixteen bookshelves—all full, which is why I need another. I have three shelves of children’s books, two of books on Vietnam. 1 ½ shelves each for gardening and photography. Some of the books I only use for reference—physics and chemistry texts, books on chess and soccer and the Tarot, The Bible, Dine Bahane and Bullfinch’s Mythology, and my English, French, Spanish, Latin, and slang dictionaries. The 1987 PDR and the 1998 AHFS Drug Information are purely for research. I’m not sure what I’m doing with a Vietnamese dictionary, since it contains no English words—but I have it if I ever need one. I have books on writing and books on cops, books on coping and poetry and math, books I’ve never read, and some I reread annually.

Writing all this down, I’m forced to admit I’m an addict. But I know people who are much worse off—some who own 10,000 titles. I can trace this mental disorder to a traumatic event in my early life—I caught the Library discarding its only copy of Another Country. Admittedly, it’s not the greatest novel ever written, but it was written by James Baldwin, for God’s sake!

Though I know my book jones is threatening the health of my bank account, I keep reminding myself that books are mind-altering but not fattening. And I never drive under the influence—I swear I don’t own a book on tape.

Besides, my building engineer reassured me that the floor in my condo is reinforced concrete—it can take the weight.

14 comments:

Rob in Denver said...

I got that way with records and CDs... about 500 LPs at its peak and a couple thousand CDs.

I got tired of moving them, whether for a physical move of residence or to make room in the alphabet. Then, prior to buying my house, I decided enough was enough (or was it my wife who decided that? Yeah, it was probably my wife.)... so I weeded out the stuff I'd never listened to or that I wouldn't miss if it got stolen, lost or destroyed.

Now there's just a hundred or so LPs and about 1000 CDs.

I love music and I had some really cool stuff. But, honestly, I don't miss what I no longer have.

Barbara D'Amato said...

Keep all books. Give none away. Place them on sheves built against exterior walls. Call them four inches of cellulose insulation.

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