I’ve always been drawn towards reckless feats of youthful stupidity, self-destructive behaviors, and impulsive decisions that negatively affect every aspect of my life. But this isn’t about any of that. This is about the most productive habit I have ever picked up.
This is about my reading addiction.
If you haven’t noticed, I’m a bibliophile. I come from a long line of novelholics. My Happy Gilmour happy place is a smorgasbord of all of the libraries I have ever been to, and even though I now own a Kindle, there’s still nothing I love more than the musty smell of books that have been slowly decaying for twenty-five years.
Most people don’t know this, but I’ve actually been an English major since kindergarten, when I – a transplanted Canadian – had to actually read the Pledge of Allegiance from a piece of paper. Everyone else knew it by heart.
Condescending proverbs and hedonists say that there are many things that you can’t learn from books, but I’m fairly certain that fiction taught me how to live. An unhealthy amount of my childhood was spent sneakily reading borrowed books under my desk at school. “Sneakily” is probably not the right word; the teachers knew I was ignoring their lectures, but they never had the guts to tell my bespectacled self to stop. How do you tell a kid to stop reading?
Reading was much more important in the growth of my body than physical activity. As a result, I have knuckles that need to be cracked regularly, and dexterous fingers that like to play guitar. I am bad at sports, because I would always fabricate excuses about sickness and homework in order to get out of neighbourhood games. It’s probably best that I skipped a lot of those games, seeing as how my nickname on the front yard football field was “Butterfingers.”
In those days, I thought I had time to read everything.
When I was in primary school, I got most of my reading material from libraries, but one of the mothers in our neighborhood used to work for a publishing company, and she would always have books in this little turquoise wagon. She would give them to us when we got off the bus. They were always awful books, like Animorphs, but that didn’t change the fact that I didn’t have to return them to the library. They were mine – the building blocks of a library I’ve never stopped adding to.
As the years went by, I continued promising my parents that I would give away my slowly growing collection to a nearby library, but I never had the selflessness to actually do so. I would lie my way into Barnes N’ Noble trips, even though buying books was a stupid financial investment for my family because I would read the book before the end of the day, or sometimes multiple books – a binging young junkie hooked on Roald Dahl and Ritalin. This crazed cycle would continue until I fell asleep, cracked out on chapters, mentally exhausted and sweaty from hiding under the covers reading all night, my claustrophobic space lit up with a small little GameBoy light.
[Fun fact: the most difficult thing to transport between apartments is bookshelves and the contents within.]
I recently cut the dusty protective cover off of a library book I bought for ten cents at a clearance sale – Toni Morrison’s Paradise. The act of de-libraryizing the book made me a little bit nostalgic for all of the libraries I’ve belonged to; this massive cloud of guilt began to descend on my heretical shoulders. I felt like I had committed the cardinal sin, turning what had been public property for years into private property, like a selfish Suzy Bishop.
This isn’t the first time I’ve Judas’d out on the library Gods. I once stole a book from the classroom library of my third grade teacher and felt guilty for almost a decade until I returned it nine years later.
In the fourth grade, I was banned from using the school computers for the entirety of the year (for several Internet-related crimes and misdemeanors), and thus had to hand-write my end-of-the-year book, a fourteen-page masterpiece with a cover made of wallpaper that featured characters stolen from Rush Hour as well as three f-bombs, which were later scribbled out with my multi-coloured pen and replaced with the word “expletive.”
Nine years later, it still sits on the shelves of my library back home, collecting dust and waiting to be checked out (probably by my mom). It’s awful writing, but that’s the thing about libraries – they have space for everything, as long as somebody wants to read it.
Even though people say that books are dead and that the future has no space for the physical demands of novels, libraries will always exist, though they probably won’t be made of bricks. Maybe they’ll only exist online, and we’ll have to rant to our kids about cranky librarians telling us to “keep it down” and tell stories explaining the concept of late fees.
That being said, it doesn’t matter much to me. I’ll be hoarding my books until I die. I will always have a library in my own home.
li·brar·y [lahy-brer-ee], noun, a collection of any materials for study and enjoyment, as films, musical recordings, or maps.
I can’t imagine life without one.