A lifelong obsession
With the exception of my grandparents’ black German Shepherd dog, books were my first love. Before I was able to read, the magic of story time, the way the hardbacks decorated the shelves near the fireplace, and the mystery of what the words meant intrigued me. It prompted me to want to learn to read, and thankfully, my journey began in preschool.
My favorite Christmas gift was always a book. I still have the giant size version of The Snow Queen and other tales that I was given when I was 9 years old. Fairy tales from Hans Christian Anderson, The Little Mermaid, and Aladdin and his Magic Lamp took me on amazing mental journeys. The world melted away as I sat under a tree reading my latest acquisition. These tales sparked my imagination, and I was able to conjure magic from everyday items and situations. These musings became my earliest writings.
The book fair and book mobile in elementary school were my favorite events. I got to look at all the books and then fill out mu book order form, get the selections approved by my parents, and then turn it in with payment. The thrill of receiving new books in a nice neat pile was the best. I couldn’t wait to get home to start reading. Amazon, Alibris, Abe, and Books from the Crypt online book resources has replaced my elementary school experience, and the excitement is the same when that package arrives with my order.
School trips to the library were always exciting, the smell of the books, the card catalog that enabled me to find what I was looking for, and the quiet. Whether it was our own school library or to larger ones like the Free Library of Philadelphia or the Cherry Hill Library, the effect was mesmerizing. So many books to read and absorb.
I explored all types of writers, both fiction and non-fiction. In college and graduate school, my mind was opened to philosophy, psychology, religion and the minds of those who dared to write stories that blew-up the boundaries of normal reality.
Exposed to the fantastical minds of master storytellers such as Clive Barker, Stephen King, and Anne Rice, among others, I spend many happy hours enthralled, traveling to other realms. I even read books about books, such as The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon and The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield.
I imagined the writer’s life, living in a charming old house like Jessica Fletcher of Murder She Wrote or Carolyn Muir of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, spending time in my study surrounded by books and writing. I even aspired to own a bookstore at one point. Happily, my life isn’t far from that now. I became a voracious reader, reading everything I got my hands on, and continue to collect books old and new.
There used to be many bookstores, all havens for escape when stressed or needing something new to stimulate me. Used bookstores (unfortunately dying off) were my haunts of choice. Now replaced by online book vendors, the world is an antiquarian book fair. Books rare and out of print, as well as newer volumes in all formats, can be found with a few clicks of the keys.
A book habit can be expensive, especially when you have a preference for hardback first editions. With the advent of eBooks and the opportunity to purchase used books in excellent condition, it becomes more affordable. There is a used book table at my local grocery store, where people donate their books, which can be purchased for $1, and then the store donates the money to a local charity.
I have approximately 30 linear feet of bookshelves in my house measuring 5 to 7 feet tall. Books are piled sideways on top of books standing vertically when there is space between the book and the next shelf. And still I buy books. And book markers to match (I never dogear a page). They include signed first editions and volumes over 100 years old mixed in with many paperback and hardback fiction and non-fiction books. There is even a book called Living with Books, on how to house copious book collections in aesthetically pleasing ways. I have a framed print of a painting called Bookworm in my office (a gift from my mother).
The few times I’ve moved, my books are the last thing I pack and the first thing I unpack.
I snuggle up with a book every night before I go to sleep; a habit started around age 6. I am clearly addicted to my reading habit, and to books in general. My lifelong love affair with books prompted me to be an author as well as an avid reader.
I share this to connect with the members of my community who are in love with books, too. May we always have the means and the cognitive ability to continue reading, gaining knowledge and inspiration, and losing ourselves in engaging stories and imaginative journeys.
Copyright Diane Wing, all rights reserved