Books can be dangerous

“Books can be dangerous. The best ones should be labeled ‘This could change your life’.” ― Helen Exley

Bibliotherapy – even the word itself sounds enticing.  Summed up, it means a person’s relationship to the content of books and other written words as therapy.  And isn’t that what reading provides us all - a means to learn things we don’t know, explore new terrain, relearn things we thought we knew but need to know again.  Sometimes we acquire books to keep as reference.  If we own the knowledge, we can access it whenever we want.

A favorite librarian once told me the difference between tree books and e-books.  A tree book is one you own outright.  You can read it, underline phrases or even whole pages, mark it up, use highlighter on it, share it with friends, take it to the beach or on holidays.  You can donate it to a rummage sale or library or agency, use it as a door stop or art project.  An e-book is a loaner.  You buy the right to download it to your tablet or phone or computer.  You get to read it, and re-read it and store it as long as you have available memory in your device and enough charge to be able to access it.  At some point, you’ll upgrade your appliance, run low on memory, want something more portable that you won’t mind being around sand and you’ll come home to the printed word.  As a fan of both e-, tree, and audio, I’ll take books any way I can get them.

I do confess, though, that my preference is for bound paper pages.  There’s something wonderful about the tactile pleasure of opening a brand-new book, of being able to read late into the evening without concern the blue screen will give me insomnia.  I can leave a book on my towel at the beach without worry that someone may take it.  I’m also not worried it’ll get ruined if I accidentally drop it.  The worst that could happen is I’ll lose my place and have to adjust my bookmark.  If an overzealous tea-lover accidentally drips tea on a page or two, I’ll be sanguine about it.  I couldn’t see my way to loaning my tablet quite so comfortably as I could a book or two – although I miss them when they’re gone.

Some of the best books often become friends.  They have post-it notes inside them, pencil-lined phrases, some have dog-eared pages, cracked spines, coffee stains.  A book is a gift you give yourself, and the better books offer new insights every time you read them.

There’s an old adage, when the student is ready, a teacher appears.  I’ve found, in my life, that often, the teacher comes in the form of a recommended book or one that serendipitously arrives in one of the catalogues of “new items” from one of our suppliers.  Owning a bookstore, I’m in the enviable position of having new books arriving weekly on a wide range of topics in a multitude of age ranges.

Opening and receiving stock is a little like being a child at Christmastime.  Each brown cardboard box gets sliced open, the plastic peeled off, and books are matched to invoices.  The new children’s books are often read immediately or set aside for perusal later.  Others are to be exclaimed over, noted, sometimes listed in “someday to read” notes on a page or phone text.

Books have always been a large part of my life.  Everyone I know is a reader, and most of my friends and family read more, in no small part because I inundate them with new reads, books I’ve read and loved, titles I just knew would be right for them.  I suppose it’s a gift that we’re a mental health and educational bookstore – if it stocked mainly fiction, I’d be doomed to an impoverished life because I’d be spending all my money on books instead of just most of it.  I’d be buying bestsellers and classics and random books by authors I’d just discovered and I’d, of course, have to buy copies for best friends and new acquaintances.

As it is, my book budget always exceeds my business partner’s by a laughable amount. She has reminded me on several occasions that we do own the store – I don’t need to purchase every book that comes in.  I just can’t help myself.  Or maybe I can and don’t.  I like to admit to people that I’m a bibliophile, and that at ODIN, we encourage bibliophilia.  Honestly, I don’t think there’s any such thing as too many books.  At home, however, my partner begs to differ, eyeing the always overstocked bookshelves I’ve finally managed to relegate to a single location (although many books roam from room to room.  I just shrug, smile, and on occasion, cull and send some surplus on to new owners who will enjoy them as much as I have.

I can’t imagine a life without books.  To me, it would be like a room without windows.  I’ve learned so much from bound pages, gleaned insight, made major life changes with the help and support of some of my favorite authors, and had great companions on this journey of lifelong learning.  At year end, I sometimes hold my breath when tallying up  my book budget, but however high it is, I comfort myself with the knowledge that as one year ends and a new one begins, a brand new zeroed-out book budget appears.