Monday, October 19, 2009

A Confession (of sorts)

My name is Heather and I'm a book-a-holic.

I've been addicted to books and reading for as long as I can remember. It started at a very young age.......


Having been born third of four children probably helped form my addiction because by the time I arrived, my parents had already amassed a fairly good portion of what would become a sizable collection of children's books. [Please don't think I'm blaming my addiction on my parents, although they fully enabled and encouraged all of us to read quietly as often as we wanted.]

By the time I started first grade, I was well on my way to becoming a bibliophile but something happened which would impact my life so profoundly and cement my future as an addict.

I learned to read.

I remember the exact day, too. Seems simple enough, doesn't it? But for me, that day changed my whole life in an instant and the memory of it is still so vivid in my mind. I was so excited the day reading actually "clicked" for me. I don't know.....maybe my excitement stemmed from the fact of being the baby girl with 2 older sisters who could already read and my competitive, Virgo nature just wanted to catch up with them. Nevertheless, the day I learned to read (seriously, that very day), I marched straight to the library after school and announced to Mrs. Neighbors, the librarian,

"I can read! I need a library card!"

Looking back, I'm sure it thrilled Mrs. Neighbors' book-loving, librarian heart to see a 6 year old so excited about books and reading, but I was oblivious to any of that because I was soaring above the clouds, heady with my own sense of triumph!

Mrs. Neighbors lovingly typed up a library card for me. It read,

Cook, Heather
First Grade, Mrs. Jordan

After the card was prepared, she helped me select my first book for check out. When the transaction was complete, I headed for home with "A Fine Meal". I remember taking the book out of my bag and rushing to show my mother. When I close my eyes, I can see it as if it were yesterday. She and I, sitting on the edge of her bed, my feet dangling and the book perched on our laps; the front cover on her leg, the back cover on mine. I pointed to the words as I read them aloud. At then end of each 3 or 4 word sentence I would pause, look up at my mother and exclaim my astonishment, "See mom, the letters make WORDS" I said, as if I were revealing the secrets of the universe to her.....or at least a great truth she had yet to discover.

Few things in my life have been so earth-shakingly profound as that day of discovery. To realize the alphabet I'd been reciting since kindergarten held such wonder and power within it! It's no wonder I was almost instantly addicted.

Throughout my childhood, my parents eagerly fed my addiction. Summers were spent with weekly trips to the library where I would participate in the summer reading program. It was as good as candy to me! [To this day, I love the crunchy sound of the cello-wrapped books as you open them and the smell of the pages, too!] In addition to my weekly trips to the library, my father would purchase a youth summer book club subscription for me. Once a month I would receive a cardboard box, addressed to me which contained 2-3 hardcover books. I'd also get a canvas bag with each summer's subscription.........it was absolute heaven for me! I'm sure my father would have enrolled my sisters had they shared even the slightest bit of my enthusiasm for books and reading, but he knew I would share my books (but only after I'd read them).

By the time I was in junior high, I owned so many books my shelves had reached critical mass. In an effort to feed my need for books but not collapse my shelves, I discovered a second-hand book shop where I could bring in books I'd already read to trade for others I hadn't yet read! I'm sure it seems as if checking out books from the library would be a sensible option, but to any true bibliophile, owning the book is part of the addiction.

In 2000, I started a 7 year stint as Community Relations Manager for Barnes & Noble. One of the perks of the job were ARCs (advanced reading copies) and review copies of books. Just imagine putting a chocoholic to work at Hershey's and then telling them they get free samples of all the chocolate! Needless to say, during my employment at B&N my library more than quadrupled in size. I moved to a 3 bedroom home just so I could have a room to turn into a library!

I decided to confess my book addiction to you all because this Friday is the Norman Friends of the Library sale. It's not as big at the Oklahoma City Library Book sale, but what they lack in size, they make up for in quality! Every year I find at least one treasure and several things on my list of books I've been wanting to read.

I will come home Friday night with the spoils of a book lover's victory, spread the books beside me on the bed and examine them all, carefully deciding which book will gain the honor of being the "first read". I will read until I fall asleep with the book in my hand, waking up the next morning with a glorious book hang-over!

My name is Heather and I'm a book-a-holic.

1 comment:

Life with Kaishon said...

Oh, I so want to go with you to the sale! Right now I am reading the Other Boleyn Girl. I am dying to read the novel about Precious which I would love to see on Friday! You know that topic is near and dear to my heart!