Monday, January 4, 2010

My Name is Michelle, and I Am an Addict..

I have a confession to make. I am a complete, unapologetic, wildly out of control book addict. I can't seem to stop buying them.

I have five bookshelves in my office/work space at home, and they are almost full. I'm spilling out into the rest of the house: bedside table, bookcase in the bedroom, a row of hard-bound classics on top of the piano. (The picture above shows what it looked like last summer, when I had to clear it all out to paint the room, and then somehow put it all back in order again.)

It's not as bad as it could be, because about ten years ago, after slowly accumulating books for the first 35 years of my life, and carting them all around with me, I went through a major purge, and sold or gave away almost all of them. After that, I was lean and mean for a while. I started using the library almost exclusively. When I did have to buy a book, I would read it and then give it to a friend.

But somewhere in the nesting that has happened in the past six years, the book habit has crept back into my life. I had kept some volumes, the best of the best, ones that I couldn't bear to part with. And now, I am adding new books all the time. I've been in a book group for the past seven years, so that's one new book a month. Then I hear recommendations, or read one book that references another, or read a review, or stumble across a find on, and off I go.

I am constantly interested in new things, and that interest always leads me to more books. So I have a shelf of books on Zen and other Buddhist writings, a shelf of books on Japanese language, a collection of Spanish books, an assortment of books on writing, a bookcase full of poetry. Then I veer off into all kinds of topics, from vegan eating to gay culture to classical music and music theory to the history of World War II to contemporary philosophy.

There is so much amazing literature out there, so much to learn, so many pages to examine! The problem is that my thirst/appetite outweighs my capacity for consumption, i.e., I have several dozen books that I haven't read yet, and I'm still purchasing new ones. That's where the "addict" label comes into play.

I suppose it's better than a lot of addictions. It's not really hurting anyone else. And it doesn't damage my health, or ruin my relationships, or threaten my job. Sometimes it does put a crimp in the paycheck, though.

So the big resolution this year is to read, read, read! I read "The Taming of the Shrew" by William Shakespeare tonight. I've discovered books on CD, and that has upped my ability to get in more "reading" time. There are fabulous editions of Shakespearean plays on CD, acted out with full casts. I'm listening to each play in my car during my commute, then reading it from my "Collected Works" at home, then listening to it a second time, to really get in touch with the language. Very enjoyable, and a less daunting way to tackle Shakespeare than trying to read all 1,000-plus pages of the "Collected Works" straight through.

Within the next couple of days, I plan to start on the Buddhist reading plan I've laid out for myself - I have lots to choose from. And lots to learn. Maybe I can control myself, and not buy any more Zen texts until I've read the ones I already have. Maybe not....


  1. You crack me up! I don't necessarily collect books, but I almost always have two or three or more going simultaneously. Sometimes I finish a book within a week; sometimes it takes me a year or two! From a practice standpoint, I try to relax, choose the book to read based on what I'm feeling drawn to, and then allow a text's message to flow into and thru my life. What I usually discover is that the book is reading me. It has flowed into my life to speak to me... if I can just be quiet and listen.

  2. Jennifer,
    You mean I'm supposed to practice WHILE I'm reading Zen books? What a concept! I love that line: "the book is reading me." And it resonates...I know what that feels like. Okay, I'll try to slow down the frenzy, and turn it into a meditation instead of a race....