Books books books books books books books

I have hesitated to write about books - more specifically, I have hesitated to write about why and how much I love books. Why? Because most of you probably love books as well. And because I probably couldn't cover the extent of my book-loving heart. I just don't have the words.

However, it was recently called to my attention that a few people very near and dear to me no longer read for pleasure. They used to. They really did. But somewhere along the way, the torrential downpour of the written word slowed to a stream, and then a trickle. Now all they read is the high school required reading list, which, as many of you know, is perhaps the one thing guaranteed to drive anyone further away from the readerly path.

This is a travesty, my friends. That anyone could not fall in love with books, and even more so, that anyone who ever read for pleasure could leave such a decadent lifestyle, is tragic. And so I have found myself in the position of needing to defend my choice of downtime activities. Be warned: what follows may be slightly incoherent.

This is how much I love books. I could never mark them up - annotations in high school seemed to be a particularly tasteless form of graffiti. I once annotated To Kill a Mockingbird in my junior Honors English class, and was afterward forced to buy another copy. I couldn't look at the wreckage without becoming ill. I hold library cards from four public libraries, and I have memorized the card numbers of two of them. In my youth, it was not uncommon for me to pick up so many books to take home that I was forced to hide half my books behind dusty shelves, check out the rest of them, run home, and come back for more. As I lived two blocks from the library growing up, this was not overly difficult. I believe that the most books I ever checked out at one time was between forty and fifty. The most books I ever had out from a library at once is over sixty. The most books I have read in a day (each of them over two hundred pages) clocks in at eight. This from a summer spent doing little else other than sleeping and eating. Sometimes while reading. I am not happy unless I am reading at least one book "for pleasure" at all times.

While the quantification of book-love is easily illustrated, it is the why that shows itself to be more difficult. How can I describe it? I have always loved books, well written books, exciting books, books with a story to tell. A book is a better companion than a film, and generally more substantive. A book may go with you everywhere. A book may teach you things about the world, things you might never have discovered otherwise. A book may illuminate internal yearnings you never knew you had. To me, a good book is bliss. On a rainy day, there are few things better than a warm blanket, a comfortable chair, a mug of hot chocolate, and a fascinating story. That doesn't really cover why I love books, but I feel at it is at least a start.

Beyond reading for myself, there are few book-things that give me more pleasure than introducing people who don't read all that much (otherwise excellent people, though) to exceptionally excellent books. I love creating readers. It makes me feel as though I've contributed to their lives.

Closing thoughts now. I write this in hope that my dear friends will give reading another chance in their lives. And also, a request from me. As we've all discovered that I love books (and I think most of you love books too), I'd love to hear from you all about amazing books that you've read. I'm always eager to swap suggestions, and to benefit from the knowledge of those who've come before me.

Sadly, the realization remains that even if I read forever and all the time, I would never be able to read all of the amazing books that are out there. I'll just have to make do with what time I've been given.

(Ernest says that he is not barred by the same restrictions. Apparently, he can read at the speed of light. Which explains why I've never seen him with a book in his paws. And why I'm very jealous of him right now.)