My bookshelves are overflowing again. The built-in shelves in the den, a main reason why my husband and I bought our house, have books piled on top of books. The new bookcase we got for the bedroom just a few months ago is so full that I can’t squeeze in even the thinnest paperback. I have another half dozen titles on reserve at the library. My exasperated husband suggests that I stop adding to my collection for a little while. I’d sooner stop buying food or water. Books to me are a necessity, not a luxury.
As a child, I read all the time, during meals, on car rides, even on playdates (this obviously did not make me a popular child.) I was very shy, and found it much easier to be among books than around people. I loved to read about large, adventurous families, like the ones in Cheaper by the Dozen or The Family Nobody Wanted. Their lives were so different from my own quiet life in 1970s Long Island. The challenges experienced by the characters in The Great Brain, All of a Kind Family, and Little House on the Prairie were much more compelling than the ones I faced, braces and a B in math class. Every day, I solved mysteries with Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden, marveling at their bravery and spunk. Judy Blume’s heroines guided me through adolescence, teaching me about boys, bras, and bullies.
As a teen, I was introduced to a wider range of books, some of which I’d still consider favorites today. To Kill a Mockingbird, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and The Outsiders - I fell in love with the main characters, impressed by their wisdom, courage and spirit. Other books left a big impression as well, but for different reasons. I still read Judy Blume, but Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret was replaced with Forever. The latter novel came out when I was in high school, and was our generation’s Fifty Shades of Grey. Due to its realistic portrayal of teenage relationships and sexual awakenings, Forever was furtively passed around from girl to girl. As an older teen, I picked up novels where sex was portrayed just a little bit differently. I went through a big Sidney Sheldon/Harold Robbins phase before moving on to less titillating authors.
As an adult, my reading tastes may have changed somewhat, but my love of books has only increased. I’ve been fortunate to have had access to wonderful libraries over the years, and I have made great use of them. While most people buy books and then read them later, I’ll take out a book from the library and if I like it, I’ll then buy it, frequently at a library book sale. I’m a big fan of contemporary fiction and authors such as Jennifer Weiner, Jonathan Tropper, Tom Perrotta, and Jodi Picoult. But I also enjoy nonfiction these days. I eagerly read anything by Anne Lamott, Dani Shapiro, Meredith Maran and Marion Winik. They share all of the details of their lives with complete candor, which I find refreshing and inspiring. I’ve laughed out loud when reading memoirs by Tina Fey and Kristen Johnston. I’ve cried when reading books such as Father’s Day and Beautiful Boy, poignant stories of fathers coming to terms with their children’s mental, physical and emotional issues. I’ve traveled thousands of miles without leaving home with Eat, Pray, Love, Wild and The Lost Girls. No matter what the subject is, books enthrall, entertain, and educate me. They are the perfect companions – they are readily available whenever I want their company, they don’t talk back, and they provide great comfort and support when needed.
There is nothing I love more than looking at my overflowing bookshelves and remembering the pleasure that each book has brought me. I recently saw a t-shirt that says, “I can’t sleep unless I am surrounded by books.” I couldn’t have said it any better. So despite the shortage of space, I’ll continue to frequent book sales and make full use of my library card. I’ll find the room for more books somewhere – after all, my husband doesn’t really need all of his closet space, does he?