I remember the first word I learned to read in first grade. The word was "boat," and I was so proud of my ability to read it that I made sure all in my household were aware of my newfound knowledge. From a point shortly thereafter, I cannot recall a time in my younger years when I was not reading. I read constantly, many times at the cost of friendships and even schoolwork. I recall several instances of being lectured for rushing through worksheets and tests just so I could get back to whatever book I was then making my way through.
As one can imagine, I came to own a large number of books at a young age. In relation to my book collection, my room at home attempts, unsuccessfully, to defy a basic law of physics: two solid objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time. My room is overflowing with them. They more than fill up the rather large bookshelf that I have had since childhood. In addition, my collection extends to other parts of the house, including the basement and my gradual, though thus far incomplete, annexation of the bookcase in my brother’s bedroom.
My parents have always encouraged my rather voracious appetite for books. While as a younger child I might clamor and scream for toys to no avail, the request for a book, within reason, nearly always proved successful.
However, when I was young, my father in particular began to push me toward the library. There I could find many of the books I wished to read while not needing to spend the money to purchase them. This certainly made fiscal sense, and as I grew older my frugal tendencies certainly saw the virtue in doing so. Thus did I begin infrequent journeys to the library. For a time I complied with my father’s requests, but I never could bring myself to be a consistent frequenter of the library. As if drawn by some invisible and unstoppable force, I always ended up at the bookstore, purchasing another volume that would not fit on my shelf. For many years I could not consciously defend such actions. After all, the previously stated financial benefits of the library were so apparent. Why on earth could I not bring myself to go there and instead always opted for the bookstore?
Thought, experience, and time have brought me to only one defendable answer: I am in love with my books. Yes, the "L" word. From the moment I could put letters together to form words, I was smitten. In fact, one could call books the first love of my life. When girls still had cooties, my first romance was literature.
Yet why does my passion for books necessitate my ownership of them? Maybe it is because love is based on fidelity. If I own the book, I can give myself to her, knowing not only that I am hers, but that she is mine. Such is a lifelong love affair. At no time may I wonder if I will wake up to find her gone, left for another shelf. In the comfort and security of this love, I can let myself go; I can trust her; I can be drawn into her world. As such, she can change and mold me, forever making me a part of her. Many a time I recall letting myself go, getting lost in a literary world so vivid, so beautiful.
In much of the same manner, with a book I own I may impart to her a piece of myself. I may bare my soul to her within the margins of the delicate pages, filling them with questions and jokes, thoughts and dreams. In this lifelong romance, the book and I may spend the rest of our lives in conversation, each time knowing the other more intimately, each time the bond growing stronger.
This can never happen with a book taken from a library. She can never be yours, as from the first attraction it is known that she will never stay. The due date hovers, a constant cloud dampening the love affair. If she can never be yours, then how can you ever be hers? A library book is among the ficklest of lovers, after only a short stay off to another, then another mate. Thus one cannot give himself to her because he knows she will soon be gone. It is a marriage with a predetermined divorce date.
In essence, it seems I am a jealous lover. Why is this? It seems linked to the fact that love is, at its core, intensely private. It is between you and your lover. It is true that I desire those around me to know the depth of her virtues, yet only under my watchful eye. Yes, I want others to acknowledge her beauty, but only from afar. I do not want anyone else to touch her, read her, or write in her. I am protective of my books. When I witness another person, sometimes only moments after purchasing a volume, immediately bend the spine, I cringe. Never with mine. Mine will be cared for, guarded.
Such a jealous love might rightly be called a vice. It is a love that is possessive, guarded, possibly even smothering. It is also inconsistent. How can I demand such exclusive devotion from my books, while I give myself to so many? It is beyond a double-standard.
Yet, while my love is far from perfect, it is true, it is deep, and it is genuine. It is a love that will last a lifetime, not only until the return date. Armed with this newfound understanding, I will continue what I instinctively did as a child and forsake libraries in place of bookstores. Yet, there is a problem that remains. The number of my lovers already rival that of King Solomon. Where do I now place them as my room overflows? I cannot disobey the laws of physics (so one lover has told me). I guess that means I will have to buy a new bookshelf.
Adam Carrington is a junior from Wheelersburg, Ohio, majoring in Political Science.