One of my overflowing bookcases

One of my overflowing bookcases

My name is Rosemary and I am a book junkie.

I think it is fair to call myself a book addict.  The bug hit me when I was young, and like a chronic disease, I’ve lapsed again and again.  No, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth;  I’ve simply been lost in good books.

We didn’t have cable T.V., videos, dvds, the internet, etc. when I was a child, and without those distractions I relied on books to transport me from my humdrum life on the farm.  During summer vacations, it irked my hard-working mother to see her kids sprawled around the house buried in books.  She’d often tell us to “get our noses out of those books” and go outside and play.  And if we didn’t want to play, she had plenty of outdoor chores we could do instead.

I majored in English literature in college and I actually read all the titles assigned on the syllabi.  There was no time for pleasure reading outside of the coursework.  This was in the early years of African-American studies and women’s studies, and once again I was transported to new (to me) worlds through books.

Since then I’ve always read, but my life was balanced with friends, family, hiking and biking, travel, and housework.  These days a disproportionate amount of time is given over to reading.  My child is raised; my nest is empty.  Working in a library is like being an alcoholic working in a bar.  Tempting titles pass through my hands daily, and my reading list grows.  I simply cannot resist.  Reading so much is a guilty pleasure.  I sense the spirit of my mother hovering and urging me to get my nose out of my book and go outside or get some work done!

So this is my confession.  I’ve been reading instead of writing blog posts.  I’ve been neglecting you and perhaps my family and friends, too.

Instead of an act of contrition, I will offer you a book recommendation.  My most recent favorite book is Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me.  It’s an important book, I think, reminding us that ignoring and discrediting what women say is on a continuum with violent silencing, including violent death.  This silencing, rape, and violence is a pattern whose causes are cultural and gender-based.  She reminds us, too, that revolutionary change can happen.  Once ideas — like owning people (slavery) is wrong, that women are people with just as much right to vote as men, etc. — are out of the bottle, they cannot be gathered up and put back under a lid.  That’s heartening.

To get a sense of Solnit’s remarkable writings, you can follow this link to her original posting of “Men Explain Things to Me” at Tom’s Dispatch online.



Part 2: Reading Less

“Actually, reading is both a blessing and a curse.  It is one of the finest and most ingenious inventions of the human mind.  Used selectively it is a marvelous aid to growth.  But it can be overused until it dominates our lives, acting as a consumer of time that should be used for direct, firsthand experience.  With many of us, reading is an addiction.  We get the reading habit and it stifles our real lives.”
     — William S. Coperwaite, A Handmade Life: In Search of Simplicity

“Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits.  Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.”
     — Albert Einstein

“My days are not lived so much as wasted in compulsive reading.”
     — Kathleen Norris, Acedia and Me

My current pile of library books

I am addicted to reading.  Perhaps someone should stage an intervention.  When I was growing up, one of my mother’s common refrains was, “Get your nose out of that book.”  Now that I am a grown woman and in charge of my own life, I too often indulge my passion for reading to the detriment of other areas of my life. 

My problem is that my reading list mushrooms.  I decide to take a trip, so must research guidebooks, travel writings, and literature about the destination.  I read a nonfiction book, and the author mentions other interesting titles, which I add to my list.  I follow many fiction authors, and they release a new book every year, which I must read.  As I do my job at the library, an intriguing title or cover catches my eye, and I add that book to my list.  My friends recommend even more books.  And on and on. . .