The Definition of Insanity

Hello, my name is Ruth and I’m a book-aholic.

Before anyone comments, let me make it clear that I am not writing that to make fun of alcoholics or anyone fighting addiction issues. I know too many people who have battled addiction, and seeing their struggles taught me addiction is not a laughing matter. It’s deadly serious and can have a ripple effect on all those who know the person fighting addiction issues.

I often take those quizzes designed to tell someone if they might have a problem. I do that because some studies suggest addiction is a learned behavior. Others think it’s genetic. Either way, I know I’m at risk, and I monitor my behavior.

Recently, I realized I’ve been monitoring for the wrong addiction. It came about because my better half and I have started packing in hopes we’ll soon be moving into a house. As I packed the box, I realized I hadn’t made much of a dent in packing our bookshelves. I glanced around the room, making a note of all the bookshelves still full of titles to pack.

Then, I walked through every room of our apartment. We have bookshelves in all of them, except the bathroom. That room has a stack of magazines.

I sat down, and I thought about our search for a new home. In each place, I poked around the bathrooms and counted bedrooms. I also considered how much counter space the kitchen offered and whether any of the windows looked like a good place for our cats to nap. But, amid those criteria was the big one: Bookshelf space.

In every house we see, I’m subconsciously thinking about where the bookshelves will go and how tall they can be. I’m looking for corners were a small shelf could be squeezed in. And, I’m trying to find the perfect spot for a reading chair and my desk.

Other indications of my addiction include my inability to pass a bookstore without walking in. If I don’t have a book picked out and waiting for spare moments to read, I get nervous and anxious, and I can’t focus on any other task until I pick out a book to read. I am also willing to buy more books even though my to-read stack is absurdly high (really, it’s its own bookshelf at this point). In fact, I think Erasmus had it right: “Whenever I get a little money, I buy books. If there’s anything left, I buy clothes and food.”

I’d like to say I’m alone in this, but I’m not. My better half is just as bad, and we enable one another. Our packing dilemma suggests we’ve entered the self-destructive phase of addiction. We know we need to get rid of some of the books, especially ones we didn’t enjoy. But, neither of us can seem to decide which titles to donate or sell.

We ran into this problem when we moved from Washington State to Brooklyn, and we mercilessly purged a number of titles. We bought new copies of a lot of them, along with lots more. The movers are going to hate us.

2 thoughts on “The Definition of Insanity

    1. We have e-readers, but we both prefer a physical book to reading on a screen. And, we use the libraries, but neither the Brooklyn Public Library System nor NYPL has served us as well as KCLS and the Seattle Public Library did. I think these libraries are better resources for research reading than pleasure reading.


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