Hi, my name is Cedar, and I hoard books…
I was thinking this last night as I looked at the stack of books on my nightstand, and then read myself to sleep with a book on my phone (my preferred in-bed reader, as I can turn out the light, and it’s small enough to curl up around). I have so little time to read, and yet I still buy books. The stack on my nightstand alone, at my current rate of a book a week, could last me months. Not to mention the stack in the office, the book on hold at the library, or the shelves… we won’t even discuss the books in the e-library.
So why do I do this? Well, at one time in my life, it was hard to get books. I was book-poor, would read anything, and couldn’t afford to buy more. The library wasn’t an option at that time, so I hard to earn my books, and treasure them, and savor them, and… Ah, hem, where was I?
Oh yes, hoarding books. You see, now I am relatively book-rich. I have the ability to pick up books at a shop when I find them without worrying about whether it’s ok to add to my library or whether I can afford them (if you’re wondering, I rarely buy new, I’m talking thrift shops and used bookstores when it comes to paper. My budget is not that big!). Even more amazing to me, I can buy online, and get what I want, when I want it.
Gone are the days of reading whatever was on hand. If I am in the mood for a WWI mystery novel, I can have one in seconds. When I want to sample some short stories of a golden-age SF writer like Mack Reynolds, a couple of clicks later and I am inhabiting one of his worlds vicariously. No longer must I read dubious romances (nothing against the genre, but you have to admit, it has produced some real stinkers) or even more questionable books. And I am making up for lost time, with a book here, three there. Just in case, you know, I really NEED them at some point…
Had I always been able to live like this, would I have ever become a writer? I sometimes wonder about that. I started writing back in my teens, and again about a decade ago, during the worst of my book drought. I wrote what I wanted to read, because I was having trouble finding what I wanted to read. Writing has become more than that, now I take pleasure in the characters who come to life in my head, the worlds that give me solace and escape from the mundane of my real life, but would I have gotten here, without that time of privation?
I’m trying not to work on a book right now, needing to write another one before I create this story, but I know that a central point in this book with be a dragon who hoards books. She’s not a full-blood dragon, but her most dragonish aspect is this deep-seated need to have as many books as she can, and to keep them safe. She will have to learn to allow others access to her library, and that’s not going to be easy… I think I came up with this out of my own past. I’ve had to purge my library, time and again, at the behest of others. “You have too many books. Books are clutter. That many books in the house can’t be healthy.”
I love having a library, and sometimes I have a pang for the lost books, like people who have gone on, beyond my reckoning, but I still have memories. What is more, as a writer I can craft those memories into stories, to honor the ones I read before, which are no longer. I can take the people I have loved, and those I have not, and add them to the mix. I can pull dimly-remembered facts from the non-fiction, verify, and use it to add versimilitude to my tales. I am what my books have made me.
I hoard books. Is this such a bad thing? I’m not giving them up again!