Am I Addicted to Books?

Returning guest blogger Sunny Frazier, whose first novel in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries, Fools Rush In, received the Best Novel Award from Public Safety Writers Association, is here today to talk about all those books we acquire that may never get read.

The third Christy Bristol Astrology Mystery, A Snitch in Time, is in bookstores now.   //

If you’re reading this article, you probably have an extensive library or healthy collection of books on your shelves or your e-reader. But, do you ever look at those over-flowing shelves and feel guilty? All those volumes that remain unread, forgotten about, sometimes for years?

I love my books. Yet, I treat some of them badly. I find them scattered around the house in boxes and drawers, out in the garage and in spare rooms. It’s like finding hidden treasures that have been put aside for newer purchases. Orphans.

I tried to be “fair” with my books. I alphabetized them by author and vowed to read them in order. Then I undermined my own system by buying more books, checking out library books and borrowing from friends. The stress over unread books weighs on me.

Recently I decided to skip the library book sale. I spent the day in a panic. What if a book I just had to have was sitting on the table, snatched by some other reader? I could have saved a lot of angst if I’d just gone. Which led me to wonder—do I have an addiction to the written word?

I asked my bookish friends if it’s healthy for us to put reading before so much else in life? Is there something wrong with this passion? Is it an unhealthy compulsion? What spurs this attraction to life between pages?

Then a friend sent me a terrific article. A statistician named Nassin Taleb explained that by surrounding ourselves with unread books enriches our life by reminding us of what we don’t know. He calls this our “antilibrary.” He believes books we’ve read are less valuable than books waiting to be read. Those books represent knowledge we have yet to explore. As you grow older, more knowledge accumulates and more unread books show up in the collection.

The Japanese have a word for this: tsundoku. We call it our TBR (To Be Read) stack.

I’m not going to worry anymore about my insatiable urge to read. It’s a stress reducer, an escape hatch, a place to bury myself when depressed, a way to add enjoyment to mornings on the patio with a cup of coffee or before bed with a cup of tea. A book makes waiting bearable, especially at the doctor’s or the DMV. It also supplies me with trivia in case I’m ever on Jeopardy.