I am a confessed book hoarder. I hoard books shamelessly, with little thought to others. It is an addiction—it is a disease.
It started slowly, friends and relatives would ask about a book I had read, or ask to borrow it, and I would buy them their very own copy. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to loan mine out, I just understood the joy of receiving a book for your very own for no reason at all. It was a gift from the goodness of my heart. I was the book fairy.
Then something awful happened—I lent out a book to a close family member and never got it back!! When I confronted this person, I was told the book he read belonged to someone else and he had already returned it! I tried to reassure myself, surely this person realized the mistake and being that it was another family member I would simply ask that person about it and the situation would be remedied. Well the book really did belong to that person—it was a paperback, not the hardback that I had lent.
What had happened to my book? Would it ever find its way home?
It has been two years and I fear it is now lost forever.
Only one other time have I lent out a book that did not find its way back to me. However, that was less dramatic being that I lent it to my mom over a year ago and she just hasn’t finished it yet. All hope is not yet lost.
Now, I understand the uncommonness of the first situation but it does not help to stifle the panic that washes over me when I think about allowing someone to read one of my books. As soon as I hear the question “Have you read any good books that you can recommend for me?” I find myself imitating a skittish rabbit, my twitchy eyes constantly in search for an escape route. I know how swiftly that can lead to “Can I borrow it?”
That question sends me into a panic equivalent to my dad catching me sneaking in after curfew.
“Oh…um well…see Dad I was driving home with Mary and she got a…a flat tire, yeah and well we didn’t have any cash left on us after going to the mall so I had to sell my book just to get money to pay for the taxi ride home. So that is why you can’t borrow my book.
I don’t know if it is worse for me to lend out a book and have to imagine the disregard the borrower is treating it with or to have to witness the reality of the situation. I often finish a book that I particularly enjoyed and try to convince my husband to read it. On the rare occasions he actually does take me up on my suggestion, our excitement is quickly smothered by my constant nagging every time he touches the book. “Don’t leave it lying face down.” “Don’t dog-ear the pages.” “Don’t even think about eating Doritos while reading it.”
These are the things that have lead to my realization that I have issues, and the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. The question is do I really want to change my hoarding habits?
Sure, I wish I was inherently more generous, one of those people who can give without a moments regret, just to see that happy receiving face. But would I ever get to that point? I doubt it. Of course I would love to get rid of the intense anxiety that comes from having to constantly think up reasons a person can’t borrow a book they know I finished reading last week. There is also the anxiety that comes from thinking about the future—what happens when I have kids? How will I react the first time my child comes to me with those sweet doe eyes and sticky fingers and wants to touch one of my books?! Of course I will have to buy a “family set” of the Harry Potter series because I know those hands aren’t coming near my personal set. Is this selfish hoarding an attribute I am proud of? No, of course not. Do I think I am going to change my ways? Not anytime soon.
Book hoarding is a part of me. When I pick up Harry Potter to read it for the nth time, it carries with it the memories of all our previous encounters. Each book is full of memories for me. Tear stains on the final pages of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the one time I allowed myself to dog-ear a page (when Darcy professes his love to Elizabeth), the wrinkles in the back cover of Lolita because I brought it to the beach and a wave came up high enough to catch my towel.
Staring at my bookshelf is like flipping through a photo album. I may not lend my books out or give them away when I have finished reading them but I will give new ones as gifts and make heartfelt recommendations with the hope that one day someone will have such a connection that they will proudly display that book on their shelf to be reminded of the feelings it aroused every time they glance at it.