January 02, 2005

Why books?

Why books, you might ask? I truly don’t know. I was that kid in elementary school who would rather read a book than play outside, the fifth grader who got in trouble at school for reading her mother’s books rather than something “more appropriate” for a ten year old, the middle school student who frequently got caught hiding novels behind her math book, the ninth grader voted “most likely to be found with her nose in a book” and the twenty-something who would rather read than date. Perhaps it’s because I was raised by bookish parents and most likely it had a lot to do with the fact that I was an only child who didn’t have any same age neighbors until I was school-aged. Whatever the cause, I was an incurable addict long before I started school.

I think that those bibliophiles among us (I feel certain that you must be at least an occasional member of this fringe society if you have taken the time to read this far into this blog) are part of a strangely elite group, or perhaps it would be better to say reverse elite because I think that we make efforts to be inclusive despite opposition. The exclusion, if any, comes from a culture that treats reading as a second-rate pastime. The poor, misguided book enthusiast is handled with gentle condescension. He is given names like bookworm and dreamer to hint at the strangeness of his obsession. This group takes for its mascots the elephant and the primate, that literary pachyderm behemoth who, when given paint and paper, chooses to make art, and our oft-scorned simian cousins who can not only master basic words (ASL) and concepts but who can string them together in increasingly complex communication and who, when left to their own devices, promulgate these words and ideas by passing them on to their young. We elect leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, who said that his best friend was anyone who could give him a book that he had not yet read. We sigh in sympathy with Emily Dickinson’s praise of her “kinsmen of the shelf” and cringe in horror at the totalitarian regime depicted in Farenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury’s futuristic novel, named after the temperature at which books burn). We speak the same language and walk the same streets no matter where we live, as was best described by Lizette Woodward Reese. I think that somewhere, at a level that few of us would admit, we wonder if our veins aren’t filled with ink rather than something as mundane as blood. Whether reading leads to a life of dissipation (as asserted by thinkers such as Schopenhauer, Huxley and Rousseau) or it is a crucial part of the conscious life (as per Gertrude Stein, Emerson and Charles Scribner), is irrelevant: we read because we have to do so. True bibliophiles, like any other addicts, read because we have no choice.

So, if any of these statements ring true for you, come in. Sit down. Be welcome. Put up your feet and stay awhile because you have found a new home. Most importantly: join the dialogue. Be part of the community. Share your thoughts. Challenge your perceptions. Introduce each other to literary gems and hidden treasures. Ask questions. Voice opinions. Argue when it seems appropriate. Celebrate your passion for words. Just be sure to speak up…I want to hear you.

15 Comments:

Blogger Serrabee shared an opinion...

Fof fun but thoughtful fiction reading, I will add a book recommendation -- A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami, or really any of his works, but I'd starth witht that one. Sorry not to include links, but look the Complete Review for more on him.

10:16 am  
Blogger Special Sauce shared an opinion...

Crap. I just had a brilliant comment, and blogger ate it. Allow me to attempt to recreate.

My name is Special Sauce, and I am a book geek.

I was that kid in Elementary School and Junior High who chose her books by length, rather than subject matter. The one in High School who volunteered in the Library. The one you probably made fun of when I wasn't looking (or so you thought) (not YOU, MWN). I got my dream job- I worked for Borders for four years, working with, and training other book geeks. It was paradise.

Books are that one place where nobody looks at you funny, questions your motives, or asks you "why in the name of all that's holy, are you in your pajamas at 6:00 on a friday night?" The only demand they have is "look at me". The mere sight of a favorite book can make you giddy, or bring back the memories of the first time you ran your fingers greedily over the spine- saying "I want THIS one."

Yes. I'm a book geek. And I'm proud. Thanks for speaking for us. We're not nearly as creepy as the Plushies, but we seen to get the same lunatic fringe treatment.

3:09 pm  
Blogger parcequilfaut shared an opinion...

My name is...and I'm a huuuge book geek, to the exclusion of most other media.

As you know, because you read me too. :)

My battered LOTR trilogy just came out of storage and I am reading Fellowship out of a book missing both front and back covers. Hello, old friend.

7:36 pm  
Blogger Ghost of Goldwater shared an opinion...

This is weird. I made a post about this just a few minutes ago at http://ghostofgoldwater.blogspot.com/2005/01/my-name-is-nn-and-i-have-buying.html and then I come here and read your post... I was also one of those kids who would rather sit inside with a good book than run around the great outdoors for no good reason what-so-effin-ever.

12:13 pm  
Blogger Special Sauce shared an opinion...

I was checking in today, to see if there were any new fun things to read, and upon glancing at the title I thought it said "Why Boobs". To which my immediate response was, "well, they're there, aren't they?"

I don't know why it struck me as so funny, but hey...

10:05 am  
Blogger Sherry C shared an opinion...

Oh where, oh where has my word-nerd friend gone? Oh where, oh where can she be...

10:43 am  
Blogger Ecks Ridgehead shared an opinion...

I stumbled across this site on BlogExplosion (rated it while I was there, too), and I liked it so much I Ecks Rated it over at Tales From The Ridge. I will be coming back regularly.

Meanwhile, if any of you want to climb up to the top of The Ridge to leave some comments on my writing, you'd be more than welcome.

In terms of hidden gems, you could do worse than All Quiet On The Orient Express by Magnus Mills.

Ecks

2:24 am  
Blogger sapere aude shared an opinion...

I enjoyed your post. I too am a bibliophile. I love the smell of books. I'm happy when I'm in a bookstore, or library surrounded by books for all ages, all categories.. I'll read them all, just give me a corner and I'll settle in. People tease me that if ever there were a fire, I'd die trying to save my books. Know what? I would. *s*

8:06 pm  
Blogger Joanna shared an opinion...

Great post! I agree completely - though I think we bibliophiles need to reappropriate the terms we may be labeled as. I know I have influenced quite a few individuals around me to read more, and I have received many thanks for it.

I've read many of the books and authors you've mentioned, but I am a strong believer in not being a book-snob. A fried of mine will only read what is coined as a "classic". It's snobby and judgmental, and she's really missing out (whoo Laurell K. Hamilton, I'm such an Anita-addict!) And it's funny that Schopenhauer said that, I've read some of his works and I practically dissipated. If he didn't want individuals to dissipate due to reading, he shouldn't be writing in the first place!

Thank you so much for your comments on my blog, I do indeed think we are twins separated at birth ;) The only real deviation I can notice is that I'm not interested in clinical psych - but we're still in the same field nevertheless!

1:29 pm  
Blogger Cori shared an opinion...

Book Nerds Are Sexy!!!!

11:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous shared an opinion...

Greetings from one Literary Luster to another.

Your blog is delightful. I shall return. Here is a post on my view on Bibliomania:

http://storms.typepad.com/booklust/2004/07/the_best_diseas.html#comments

Cheers,
patricia
BookLust

10:38 am  
Blogger Knitting Painter Woman shared an opinion...

I've been there too. Only child. Parents who read. (Tho' mine drank rather a lot. But at least things were usually quiet.). I loved books so much I was a librarian: I could read all the time and be quiet. Then I discovered I loved people, too, and trained to become a psychotherapist. And I recommend books (and poetry). And finally... I am free enough to consider writing, expressing my whims and sharing. I'll be back, too.

5:15 pm  
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2:59 pm  

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