My name is Ben. And I’m a book addict.
I have a serious book addiction. I always have. My Mum tells the story of when I was a toddler and I picked up a copy of Black’s Medical Dictionary. I apparently was upset I didn’t understand it or like the pictures so I took a brown crayola to it and scrawled over the pages. My Mother is a hoarder and she still has the book at her house. I stare in horror at the pages, the wanton act of book vandalism by a former version of myself.
Ever since then I take care of books when reading them. People who borrow books from me tend to hold up the spine and point it accusingly at me with the words “Have you read this?”. If I’m lending you a book, I’ve read it.
I always take a book with me to go to the loo. Sorry if that’s too base a confession.
I always try to have four books by my bed, you know, just in case I fancy a little read before going to bed or if I wake up in the night. I’ve hundred of books on shelves upstairs in my house. Most are in “my” room some have spread into the master bedroom. I’m always looking for space to expand.
When I moved house in November last year I had to find a way of thinning out some of my books. I donated some to the shared work bookshelf. That means when I walk to the vending machine or head to the post room I walk past books that I still consider partly mine. And, yes, I have borrowed a book back from the shelf so I can read it again.
I’m a bit of a compulsive reader really. Anything printed and I’ll try to read it. I read all the adverts on buses, I’ll try and read labels, tshirts, upsidedown articles. I’m not being nosy I just have to read.
I am usually reading three, sometimes four books at the same time. I’m currently reading a collection of Zombie short stories that I must confess I’m not enjoying as much as the collection of Apocalyptic short stories I just finished reading. One story is just the right legnth for the commute to and from work which means I can get through three or four short stories in one day. I never leave the house without a book, and if I’m taking a train I’ll usually have a back-up book in case I finish the first one. You can test me on this and ask me what’s in my bag. (Usually an assortment of wires, pens and a couple of books)
Last year at Greenbelt although I was hyper busy introducing speakers in the Hub and generally making the literature portion of the festival happen I still carried a couple of books in my bag with me all weekend. I didn’t get chance to open them and have a read but I felt safe knowing they were there. Given the chance I’d rather read than do almost anything else. There’s nothing quite like gently caressing the spine of a book you’ve not read before, easing open the front cover and finding your way into a new world. There’s also something to be said for books you’ve read over and over so they become so familiar, that just thinking about the story brings back part of the narrative. (I can do this with chunks of Douglas Couplands novels, particularly Life After God and Generation X) I also seem to be developing a bad habit of collecting old books, rare books. Expensive books. Car boot sales are great for this. Ordinary people tend not to know what they’ve got when it comes to rare books. I love them for this. I always try and pay more than they mark the book for (usually 50p or £1), I always insist they take a tenner (if it’s a really properly rare expensive book) but they think I’m just being slightly eccentric and just take a couple of quid. In the winter months I miss car boot sales and the electrifying possibility of finding something to add to my collection.
This probably all makes me sound a bit weird. A bit odd. But I’m an addict. Books are like a drug to me. And one of my biggest enablers is Amazon and their Vine Voices scheme. They email me once a month and offer free books for me to choose and review. I pick two and then a week later I get to pick two more. There’s a constant flow of new stories (not all of them are great but they’re books).
Books are like friends to me. When someone suggests I give my books away it’s like you’re suggesting I put a gun against the temple of a really good friends head and pull the trigger. No thanks.