Books and more books….

Last night I went to the book store for the first time in weeks. I’ve been staying away, partly because I’ve been too busy moving and working, but also because I needed to take a break from my addictive compulsion to buy books. My house is scattered with piles of brand spanking new, as yet unread books. If I had to hazard a guess I’d have to say there are at least 30 of them. I’m not exaggerating. So many books so little time. Sometimes I wake up in a cold sweat at night contemplating the seemingly insurmountable dilemma of not being able to read every book I want to read. I mean people keep writing the things! Its bad enough that I have to worry about all the new books I discover, but what about my old favorites? All the staple books which I periodically like to revisit. What is a girl to do? Yes, I know. I have a problem. But as a good friend once put it “There are much worse addictions you could have”.

I very rarely walk out of a bookstore empty handed. The fact that I haven’t been to a bookstore for weeks does not mean that I haven’t bought any books however, I just haven’t bought any NEW books. A couple of weekends ago I went to town-wide garage sale with a friend, the goal of the excursion being to find new bits and bobs for my new home. I did find some goodies for the house , but also managed to end up with about 10 books. After we stopped at the 4 or 5th sale of the 12 we managed to fit into the 3 hour period we were shopping, my friend said “OK, you’re not allowed to buy any more books or purses for the rest of the day”. She is not the boss of me, so I did manage to sneak in a couple of extra book purchases.

Yesterday’s trip to the bookstore was prompted by reading of Julia Cameron’s book The Sound of Paper: Starting from Scratch. If you’re familiar with her classic The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity and you are a writer then this book is a must-have. It has a collection of essays and what she refers to as “gentle” writing exercises and prompts. I’ve had the book for a while, but I picked it up the other night and read the first couple of essays. The first exercise asks that you gather 15-20 magazines, cut out images that speak to you and then create a poster. Since I don’t have any magazines in my house, I of course had to go and buy some. Yes, I could have skipped the first exercise or maybe gotten pictures from the internet, but I’m a girl who likes order and following rules. So on my way home I stopped at my local Borders to find magazines. Its the first time I’ve been in that Borders, which is now the closest bookstore to me and conveniently located on the way home from my office. I’ve always been a Barnes and Noble girl (oh how I miss my old B&N on Route 22 in Union, where I became a permanent fixture over the last few years). I can learn to love Borders. I must say that cool thing about this Borders is that when you step outside the door you are met with a stunning viewing of the mountains as compared to the view of irate drivers whizzing down Route 22 in bumper car fashion. If you live in Northern NJ, I’m sure you can appreciate the dramatic difference between the two views.

Before I went into the bookstore, in a dazzling display of fiscal responsibility I decided to only buy 5 magazines and no books. When I walked in I thought I would just take a look at the new book section. Just so I knew what was happening in the world of books. You know. I have to stay informed. Big mistake. Within minutes I had 5 books in hand. I took a deep breath and forced myself to put all but two of them down. I walked away from the new book section thinking I could make it out of the store before I did any more damage to my rapidly unraveling fiscal plan.

Unfortunately, on my way over to the magazine section I was lured by the siren song and mystical appeal of the “Buy One Get One Half-Price” rack. Damn those marketing people and their subliminal messages. They work on me every time. So in spite of all my best intentions, I left the book store with 5 magazines, 4 new books and about $83 less in my bank account. I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes, by Deciderius Erasmus:

“When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.”

I walked out giddy with the anticipation of cracking the pages on my new purchases. When I go through a drive-thru at a fast food place I can never make it home without finishing the fries. When I buy books I can’t make it home without pulling them out of the bag in the parking lot. I sometimes sit and read a couple of pages before I can even start the car. As I drive I look at them laying on the seat next to me. I touch them. Flip through a couple of pages when I stop at red lights, all the while trying to decide which one I’m going to read first. Such delicious anticipation.

For the record I decided to start with Paulo Coehlo’s, Eleven Minutes. Having recently read The Alchemist for the first time I am taken with his writing. This book is a little different from the Alchemist. It’s the story of a young Brazilian girl who becomes a prostitute. Much more “difficult” topic than the Alchemist, but the same extraordinarily beautiful writing.

With the long Memorial Day weekend coming up this weekend for those of us in the US, I think I’m going to dedicate a couple of days to installing book cases in my “library” space in the new house, and finally unpacking the boxes of books that have been sitting for the past few months. I’ve made a big mess of them as I occasionally rummage through looking for certain books. I’d say that’s a worthy project for the weekend. I’ll let you know how it goes!

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