My (Un)Healthy Book Addiction

Posted: October 6, 2011 in Social Commentary
Tags: , , , , , ,

Can an addiction to buying books be considered ‘unhealthy’,  or does the fact that the vice; the crutch of the addiction, is in essence the voracious pursuit of knowledge make it unquestionably healthy?

I ask because I, yet again, went to buy something for someone else and managed to come home with two new books to add to my collection.

I ask because, and not for the first time, I found myself standing in Waterstone’s thinking that the staff were so lucky to work in an environment where they spent their entire day surrounded by thousands upon thousands of books.

I ask because, and this is not something I am proud of, there is a very good chance those new books will join the pile of other ‘unread’ books that adorn my humble bookshelf.

I ask because, and I am sure there are others out there who will understand this, I actually asked the shop assistant to see if they had another copy of one of the books, because the cover was dog-eared; something that made me feel decidedly uncomfortable.

And I ask because, and again – I am sure I am not alone in this, the thought of someone breaking the spine of a new book sends a chill through me to my very core.

So I ask, is it wrong that I love the smell of a new book?  Is it wrong that I will randomly pick up an old favourite and read through a familiar passage?  Is it wrong that I am somewhat precious about whom I let near my books and whom I would let borrow it?

I have stroked the dust-cover of a new book.

I have looked upon a book with what could only be described as wanton lust.

One of the two books I bought is the third copy of that book I will have owned – and yet, I have never read it.

I think I may have an addiction, but does that mean I have a problem?

Oh – and if you were curious, the two books were 1984 (third copy) and Coming Up for Air – by George Orwell.

  1. Coco Rivers says:

    Hi Mark,

    This just goes to show that not all addictions are unhealthy :). Take comfort in knowing that there are many literati suffering from the same ills, with wanton love. “If there’s a cure for this…” lol. Feed your mind, it is your greatest weapon. Great post!

  2. Tee says:

    Oh Mark, we’ve had this talk over and over 🙂 You have to break the spine, fold the pages, and ruffle the edges a little. These things tell their own tale. My favourite books, which have been read and re-read have suffered more with each read, as they get bookmarked (usually with whatever is close to hand) dog eared and stuffed into various handbags. But to me a good book is like a child’s favourite toy, often looking a little tired and worn, but clearly showing the love… 

    Oh, and I’m also guilty of owning more than one copy of various books. This usually happens when I loan one to a friend and its gets returned later than I would’ve liked! The shame is that these are usually the books I enjoy the most, which is why I would have recommended and loaned them in the first place! So you just know ‘Perfume’ and Valerie Martin’s ‘Property’ had to be bought again. But second time around these were second hand, dog eared and all, so clearly enjoyed by someone else as much as I had!

    PS I have Orwell’s 1984 so might take that as a holiday read. Perhaps to make up for not actually getting round to reading a Rage in Harlem… 😉


    • Yes but Tee, that is why you are never borrowing one of my books ;). You would be so conscious of the need to keep it in pristine condition that you could never enjoy the experience.

      To me, a good book is something to be treasured; to be taken care of; something that should show the signs of tender loving care :).

  3. ajjam says:

    Oddly Mark, it is one of the innocuous parts of one of your replies that prompts me to respond here, as I think it is a little more telling than you might at first realise.

    “Unfortunately, as with CD’s – I have this need to own the book, not just read it”.

    It was actually the CD’s bit that caught my eye. CD’s? That’s so passé! What about MP3s or perhaps downloaded books?

    Then I realised that they don’t provide the tangible experience that you evidently want. I think also the the fact that you want to own the books means that you can have that experience when you want and on your own terms.

    I love to read and find things out or be enthralled by a story, but I can do that on-line, on my computer. I don’t need the medium to be tangible.

    So, rather than an addiction, my friend, I might suggest to you that what you actually have is a fetish…


    • Fetish you say? 🙂 What gave it away – the stroking of the dust-cover :D?

      I do own some electronic content as well; music and books – but I still like the idea of having a ‘collection’ when it comes to music; having an album sleeve you can read; having a book you can leaf through etc.

      I just can’t help buying new books :D.

      • miffed67 says:

        I’m like you, never been much for the library. I have shelves FULL of books that I haven’t read, and the sad part is that I probably won’t do more than thumb through them. It’s heck on the wallet, but I like the immediacy, the feel, the smell, of owning a book. I do own a Nook, and I love it, so portable! But nothing beats a real book.

      • I don’t own a nook, but I do love electronic books, because they allow me to make notations without any sense of guilt :).

  4. halaure says:

    I totally get where you’re coming from. An addiction to reading isn’t really a problem – but book hoarding can become a big issue. Might I suggest a library card? I think your wallet would agree.

  5. Brigitte says:

    Yay for 1984!

    I think you’re channeling me. 🙂

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