Books as far as the eye can seeBy JOSHUA WILSON,
My name is Joshua Wilson, and I’m an addict. They say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem … so, there you go.
I’m actually a “multi-thing” addict, if that makes sense. I’m addicted to several things, and none of them are very good for me, if we’re being honest.
Some people may say they’re addicted to going to the gym or something else that’s relatively good for them, like running marathons. Me? Nah. I didn’t get any of those “healthy” addictions.
No, my vices are things like Diet Coke, Funyuns and … collecting stuff.
That’s right. I’m a bit of … okay, that’s an understatement … I’m a big-time hoarder.
Specifically, I love collecting – errr, OK, hoarding – books, and you’re probably thinking to yourself, “well, that’s not so bad.”
Generally, I’d agree, but my collection is ruining my life.
OK, that’s a little dramatic, but it’s causing me problems.
Earlier this week, I tripped over a stack of hardbacks in my home office and very nearly landed on top of my cat. He wouldn’t have appreciated it, and I’m getting to the age where you don’t recover so easily from falls.
My home office features two humongous bookcases, both filled to the brim with books, and several smaller ones in the same condition. There’s stacks of books quite literally everywhere, including my desk. My keyboard even sits on top of a small stack.
If nothing else, it’s a fire hazard.
But it sure is cozy. I find a lot of comfort among books.
They don’t judge you, and you can open any of their covers and float away from the world for a little while. I think they’re full of magic.
I’ve had a love affair with books for as long as I can remember. My parents are big readers, and my grandparents got me hooked at an early age to Dr. Seuss.
Books like “The Boxcar Children” series and the Harry Potter saga followed, and I eventually got hooked into reading history. My collection now has everything from tomes of history on the U.S. Civil War to Kathy Griffin’s memoir. (I told you, I’m an addict, and I don’t discriminate.)
Books make me feel better, and I pay a premium for that feeling. The financial impact of my “hobby” is staggering.
So, on Jan. 1, I made my resolution for the year: No more new books … until I read all of the ones in my collection.
The problem is, I have more than 1,000 books, and I’ve probably read only a quarter of them.
And that’s not counting the e-books on my Kindle. (That’s another story.)
I stink at resolutions, so I’ve already broken mine a few times (OK, a lot of times). But, I’m trying, OK? I can’t just quit cold turkey, especially when great new books come out every day. Also, my friends are all big readers, and they’re constantly making recommendations. Am I supposed to just ignore them?
Anyway, I’ve failed at my resolution, but I’m determined to keep trying. I’ve recently joined the library (and I’m going to try really hard to not keep the books I borrow). I’m making pretty good progress on reading through my collection, too, and I’ve already read six books this year.
I’ll keep you updated on my journey, as long as you promise not to judge me too harshly or laugh at me too loudly.
Here’s what I’ve read so far this year, along with my rating of each:
n “A Memory Called Empire” by Arkady Martine, fiction. This sci-fi book is interesting and features very complex world-building. It has a glossary, so that should be a hint to you: It’s not the easiest read. But it’s worth sticking out, especially knowing it’s the first part of a planned trilogy. I recommend it.
n “The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home” by Denise Kiernan, nonfiction. Overall, this book was a comprehensive history of Biltmore House and its Vanderbilts, and it was an interesting look at American wealth and the excesses of the Gilded Age. However, the author crammed in many characters who felt insignificant to the story, and it bogged down in those parts. I recommend it with the caveat that a lot of the book is fluff and not essential to the main storyline.
n “10% Happier” by Dan Harris, nonfiction. Dan, a TV news anchor, inspired me to try meditation, and I’ve been using the Calm app to great success. If you’re interested in reducing stress and boosting your self-confidence, this book can give you a good introduction to a natural process. I recommend it.
n “Prozac Nation” by Elizabeth Wurtzel, nonfiction. A tough read for many reasons (it’s essentially the same story repeated over and over, but such was the author’s life and such is the struggle of depression), but I believe this book helped lessen the stigma of mental illness in our country. I recommend this book as a look inside depression and as a tribute to the author, who recently died of breast cancer at age 52.
n “The Library Book” by Susan Orlean, nonfiction. This book is a very interesting manifesto on the history and ongoing importance of libraries. The author is extremely talented and weaves together a fascinating story about the 1986 Los Angeles Central Library fire. I recommend it, especially if you’re a book hoarder like me.
n “Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng, nonfiction. I wanted more of this book, and I was sad when the last page appeared. It was an excellent read, one that left me with many introspective questions. I recommend it.
My current read is “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis” by J.D. Vance, and you can follow along with my reading exploits at: goodreads.com/jowilms
Joshua Wilson is the managing editor (and the book hoarder-in-chief) of The PineBelt NEWS and Signature Magazine. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.