Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Reading Machine

Ever had that moment when you come home with  new book swaddled inside a plastic bag, begging for a prime spot on your bookshelf... and then you stare in horror as the packed shelves, some even piled up with books squished between each other? Yep, that's me.

I know I've mentioned my lack of shelf space before, but summer's a great time to make a dent in your reading list - and donate whatever books don't meet your fancy.

If anyone's keeping tabs on my Goodreads account, you'll see that I've been serious about reading and clearing space on my bookshelves. I feel like I'm holding a new book every day, sniffing the pages and admiring the fonts. After writing for so hard and long in grad school, it's been a wonderful experience to put reading first for a while, allowing myself to explore other enchanting and dangerous worlds, fall in love with dashing boys, and cheer on smart, brave heroines.

But with a lot of reading comes the (often hilarious) hazards. Especially when you're adopting new books while clearing out the old ones.

I tweeted about this a few days ago, but I had a funny experience at a local store that sells used books. After scanning their dusty shelves, I found five books that I'd either been meaning to take out of the library (for years... yeah, I'm lazy) or that I've pined for my own copy of.

So I gathered these books up, stood in line, and met a big non-reader manning the cash register.

I put my books down and fished through my wallet for some dollars. And the lady working the register looked at my books with a mixture on confusion and disgust.

Cashier: "What are you gonna do with these?"
Me: ... read them.

What. For a second there, my brain stalled and wondered what exactly you could use a book for besides reading. I've heard of people (surely mustache-twirling villains) who tear up books for craft projects. If you're buying books to give to other people for gifts, that's surely good, though the books will eventually be read - if not by you, then by someone else.

My stunned response must have sparked something in her. The cashier started studying my books, examining each cover. Among the other books, I had found a baby names book. I already have one, and in a pinch, am guilty of using online databases when I'm not near my bookshelf. However, it's been years since I got a new baby names book, so I chose this one (get ready for future awesomely-named characters, guys). She picked up the baby names book, looked pointedly at my stomach, and asked me why I was buying it.

Did that just happen? My stomach is as flat as a board (Thank you, Wii Fit Plus), so her confusion only mounted.

Me: I'm a writer. I need this book to find names for my characters.
Cashier: ... *raises eyebrow*
Me: ...
Me: ...
Cashier... that'll be $8.03

I left the store feeling a little shaken, a laugh bubbling up in my throat. As much as people talk about the loss of readers these days, I've never really believed it. Everyone reads something - even if it's just Sports Illustrated or the back of a cereal box - and every once in a while a book will come along that they'll want to bring home. It happens. My aunt reads only best sellers. My dad browses business books an biographies. But I haven't met a real non-reader in a long time. It's like meeting an alien from another planet.

So here I am, trying to read a book a day, and squeezing in writing time when I can. I've been utterly delighted by some of these books, while others had won my heart until they gutted it on the very last page (the WORST!). With each page I read, I feel more refreshed, and the blank document that blinks its ugly one-eyed cursor at me becomes friendly and a little playful.

I may not have traveled to England this summer, but I've been a great many magical places via my bursting bookcase.


  1. I find it much more odd that the cashier would question your reading material than the fact that you bought a book of baby names. Eccentricity makes life interesting though. :)

    I've been reading a lot, too, mostly library books. I'm currently reading The Distant Hours by Kate Morton and loving it. Happy reading and writing!

    1. Yeah, I agree! The baby names fiasco is more likely to happen than being asked what I'm doing with those books.

      Oooh, I'll have to look that book up! Thanks for the rec! So far, I read WISDOM'S KISS (didn't like it) and I've started THE PIGEON PIE MYSTERY (so far so good!). I've already read WAIFS AND STRAYS (LOVE IT), but now I own a copy!

      Thanks - and same to you, Jade!

  2. Your opening paragraph is all too familiar to me. (Though recently my sister got married and in the past few weeks she has finally packed up all her books... AND I GET TO USE HER SHELVES. So now her old room is a continuation of my library. I'm very excited about that. Even though I like keeping all my books as close as possible. I just make sure I don't put any of my favourites in there. :D)


    What a strange reaction the cashier had. O.O I've bought used books at thrift stores literally all over my state and no one has ever questioned me.
    My sister used to have a baby names book and we wore that thing to tatters. They're just fun to have around, pregnant or not. ;)

    Ooh, I hope you enjoy The Penderwicks! I think it's an utterly charming book. :)

    1. Yay for extra shelves!!!! I know the feeling. I've inherited my mom's shelves and couldn't be happier with the space.

      Yes! I think I've always had a baby names book; the old one pretty ratty, but I can't bear the idea of getting rid of it. So now I have two.

      The Penderwicks was a great book! I mean, it started off a little slow, but once I got comfortable with who was who in the family, I thought they were very endearing! I want to read the other books!

  3. I always have trouble getting rid of books. So I have rooms and shelves crammed full of them. Can't be helped. I also have no restraint when buying books—no guilt, regret. I'll either have to learn how to donate and sell old books, how to let them go, or I can just find a bigger house.

    1. Ha, my restraint is VERY little when it comes to buying more books. Good luck with that space problem. I wish someone would invent a bottomless bag for this reason, haha.