I am a book buyer. My home is filled with books, hundreds of which I have not yet read. I enjoy the act of purchasing a book, putting it on my shelf, and I’m just as happy no matter if I read it immediately, or stick it on my shelf to devour at a later time. Regarding my book purchasing, I must quote Nick Hornby (whom you will hear a lot about shortly!)
I don’t want anyone to point out that I spend too much money on books, many of which I will never read. I know that already. I certainly intend to read all of them, more or less. My intentions are good. Anyway, it’s my money. And I’ll bet you do it too.
I love that little paragraph, which is part of the first column in the collection The Polysyllabic Spree. Let’s take a step back.
A few weeks ago, my fiancé went back to school. Our life, financially, has changed in many ways, mainly that we now have a very strict budget. I work in the book industry, which means I am constantly aware of new books, and my to-read pile doubles weekly. For every, say, 10 books I decide I want to read in a week, I perhaps purchase 1 or 2. Some months, I go the entire month buying nothing, and solely borrowing from friends or coworkers, or reading off my own shelves. Some months, I am a force to be reckoned with and spend a good chunk of my pay-check on books. It’s anyone’s guess month by month, which structure I will follow.
Until suddenly, the budget does not allow for book buying, thus my re-introduction to .. the LIBRARY! Growing up, my mother used to take me to the library occasionally. I would pick up 7 books, come home, flip through them, then put them away. I don’t recall ever actually reading them, though I do know that I probably borrowed every book on vampires that the library had when I was eight and obsessed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
When I moved to Toronto, I promised myself that I would make an effort to use the library, which is literally five minutes from my house. I pulled the same stunt, borrowing, not reading and returning. Then, a few days ago, I came upon a review of The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby. I have never read Hornby, but the book is a collection of columns he has written for the UK magazine The Believer. The column, entitled “Stuff I’m Reading”, is Hornby’s monthly review of the books he has bought versus the books he has read. Let’s just say.. I’m in love. And also, can I have that job too?!
I dragged Jay to the library where I located and pulled the book from the shelf. It’s a rather skinny volume, clocking in at under 200 pages, but nicely put together. Or it looks like it was.. before someone with an unsteady hand and a coffee mug clearly got hold of it. I frown as I brought the book to the front, wishing I could have just bought my own fresh and lovely copy, but Jay told me, once again, how this was a really great thing for us staying on budget.
Then, the unexpected happened. I read the book. I sat on my bed for hours, snorting, laughing, smiling and falling in love. Hornby is hilarious, warm, but direct and so smart. I immediately started looking up the other collections and found that there are four in total (counting this one) but that tomorrow, yes, TOMORROW (what wonderful timing) a bind-up of all four collections, PLUS new material (thank you, Adele!) is releasing. I also discovered that proceeds from these books go towards a writing program in Brooklyn for children aged 8-18 and to a London-based charity dealing with autism.
So, I have the library to thank for a few things. One – for having a book that I couldn’t find in any bookstores. Two – for allowing me to read and love something I couldn’t afford at the time. And three – for letting me come to my own conclusion that when the budget allows, I will actually want to purchase this large collection, with a happily warmed heart knowing that the proceeds will go towards a wonderful cause.
I can’t promise that I will always be a library person, but I can tell you that I greatly appreciate the services it provides, and the sincere kindness of the people who work there. I love knowing that no matter what, a five minute walk gives me access to thousands of stories I haven’t read and do not own. I love that for those who face financial difficulties, there are still stories awaiting them whenever they want. So thank you, to all those libraries and their dedicated workers! You have helped me find a new love. (And now, off to check the online catalogue for every single thing Hornby has written.)
Oh, and also, my monthly wrap ups are totally going to be written in Hornby’s column’s style. So much fun!