True Confessions, Library Version

A book is a dream that you hold in your hand.

–Neil Gaiman

My brain seems to be fixated on writing about books and the pleasure of reading, so this post might be seen as Part II of last Wednesday’s post, or Part Whatever in the story of my life. It’s here, if you’re interested.

On Friday I went to my local public library to return my books and check out new ones. I can spend hours browsing the stacks at a library. I HAVE spent hours. I like to browse. Sometimes I find a book I’ve wanted to read or the latest book by an author whose previous works I’ve read and enjoyed. Sometimes I find a new treasure. So many books! How to choose?

I feel such anticipation in looking for new books to read. I suppose it is similar to how some people feel about shopping for clothing. Or window shopping, which I really don’t get. Shopping for clothing or shoes is fun on occasion, especially if I find something that I like (that also fits), or if I’m spending time with my daughters–but then it’s not really about the clothes, is it? It’s about the companionship.

Anyway on Friday, I realized how excited I was about looking for books to read. I mean I never thought about it before–that I get excited about this. But I suspect that I’m not the only one, right? True confessions time. So I’m a nerd, and maybe I need a more exciting life, but at least I’ll have something interesting to discuss over dinner. Or I will once I get my head out of a book.

I always pick out an armful of books because I can’t decide what I want to read right then, and what I might want to read once I actually get home and have a chance to read. I like to have choices. Choices are good, right? I think that’s why it’s more fun–for me–to roam and browse in a public library than in a bookstore where I have to choose only one or two books. Too much pressure—what if I choose the wrong one? (Research libraries and archives are different, obviously, but finding a hidden treasure in an archive is also wonderful.)

Sometimes I choose a variety of novels—hmm, do I want to read a literary novel or something more popular? OK. I’ll get both. How about this historical novel? And a mystery, too? Yes, please. Or maybe that new cookbook. . .

This was my selection on Friday.

What to read?

What to read?

There were several more books I wanted to borrow but I restrained myself. It was difficult though. Thank goodness for renewals–and libraries with lots of books.

I read one novel at a time. Yes, I practice serial monogamy with my novels. Occasionally, I’ll casually date a book, but then after a few chapters we part and go our separate ways. Maybe I’ll call again sometime in the future. On further reflection we might actually have quite a bit in common. Maybe we each had our own issues to work out on that first date. It’s not you; it’s me.

I also go back and re-read books. They’re like old friends, comfortable and familiar, but still capable of surprising you.

There are books that I read quickly. It’s all fast and furious and ends with an explosive climax. Other books I read slowly, caught in the mood, lingering over passages, tasting the sweetness of a phrase, and embracing the fictional world I’ve entered until the very end. Part of my mind says, “Oh, Hurry! Faster! Read faster.” But another part of my brain says, “No, slow down. Oh YES! That phrase there.” But then the anticipation rises, and I have to go faster, faster . . .until I read those final words—and it’s over. Breathe. Back to reality.

Whew. Is it suddenly warm in here?

I better go now. I have books to read, and new worlds to explore, at least in my mind.

“A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.”

–William Styron

18 thoughts on “True Confessions, Library Version

  1. One thing that sticks out in your post: “I HAVE spent hours” looking for/reading books. That means you probably do have hours to spend, which some people would regard as a luxury, but for book worms like us, a necessity.

    I smile when I read about your practicing serial monogamy with novels but are more promiscuous with other genres. Right now I’m reading memoir (Committed by Patrick Ross) and a how-to book (Louise DeSalvo’s The Art of Slow Writing). I wouldn’t be accused of adultery with books, now would I? Wonderful post, Merril.

  2. Good point, Marian, about having time to spend in libraries looking for books. Yes, it is time some people do not have–although perhaps they spend time searching for books electronically. Of course, I used to take my girls to the library when they were small, so we ALL spent hours there, and I’ve also spent a lot of time in libraries doing research.

    I won’t tell anyone about your book adultery. It will be our little secret. 🙂

  3. I like the comparison to dating. I have some books that have been old friends for many years and many I’ve just gotten to know. Since my attachment to my reader, I have read lots of indies. There is a new way to write and then there are the classics. I’m struggling with that as a writer. The styles I loved so much in my youth seem to have gone by the wayside and people are cutting books down to bare bones now to accommodate those busy readers with no patience. The Goldfinch was not one of those. The meandering prose that infused its pages went on forever and almost tried my patience. Still, it was beautiful.

  4. Thank you for your comment, Susan. I suppose there are new ways of writing (and reading), but I think there are still writers and readers who like old-fashioned prose and long novels.

  5. Both libraries and bookstores are excellent places to browse … and yes, even in an enjoyable, time-consuming way. But the big advantage of the library is the selected book that ends up not fulfilling the anticipation, the reader can stop and return the book … thus the only cost is time.

  6. I really loved this blog post. I discovered it because it showed up as a link beneath one of the comments you left on my book blog. I’m so glad I clicked through and wound up here because I feel exactly like you do about books. I love everything about them. We differ in only one way – while you practice serial monogamy with your novels – I’m a bit of a slut and typically have three going at the same time. Usually a nonfiction book, a book I’m reading to review on my blog and a book I chose for myself. What a wonderful life we have – so many books to fill our days and our hearts. Cheers!

    • Julie, thank you so much for your kind remarks! I’m glad we’ve discovered a mutual love of books, and I’m eager to read more of your blog.
      I won’t tell anyone about you being a bit of a book slut. Haha. I should clarify–I usually read only one novel at a time, but I’m often also reading nonfiction books and reading through cookbooks. Those aren’t the books I take to bed with me though.;) Well, actually sometimes I do read cookbooks in bed.

  7. LOL! You didn’t warn us that this was an adult-themed post. 😉 But seriously, WOW! That’s so cool! I used to love to read that voraciously (and could read about a book a night!)… until I had an autistic son and had NO time for reading at all until he was about fifteen! (Talk about sad!) Now I can handle about a book a week during a good time. I also used to love the library, but also sadly, my library here almost has no books in it! (Yes, really!) It’s mostly e-book loans as well as videos and audios for loan, plus computer users. I find that so depressing.

  8. Love this post. I review for blogs (not only my own but others too) and have a never ending supply of e-books that I’ll never be through with but…I love a library and a bookshop. Having moved about a bit, one of the things that I always remember is where the bookshops and the libraries were… Keep loving the books…

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