Before getting into discussions *about* books, I thought we should start by talking about us. The readers. The lovers. The bibliophiles.
Most people enjoy reading in some capacity. Sometimes they have very specific likes and dislikes and will only read certain types of stories, but they can at least find some pleasure in those few books. But then there are those of us whose lives often revolve around books, who don’t feel quite right if we’re not always reading something. We’re the ones who buy purses based on whether or not a good size hardcover can fit inside comfortably, who don’t step foot out the house without at least one book with us. We’re a unique breed, and sometimes it’s hard for non-bibliophiles to understand us.
So what exactly makes a bibliophile? Here are some of my definitions:
1.) Bibliophiles love everything about reading. From the moment we see a book to the moment we finish the last page, we’re in love. For us, it’s an experience, a journey. We can live thousands of lifetimes and see worlds upon worlds without ever leaving the house. Just seeing a room full of books gives us pleasure, because in them we see unlimited possibilities. Opening a new book is like beginning a new life. For us, it’s not so much about what we’re reading but simply the fact that we are reading. Each experience is a gift. Because of that, we often feel bad for those people who don’t enjoy reading for whatever reason. We feel like they miss so much!
2.) Books are prized, irreplaceable possessions. No, I don’t care that if something happens to my book I can go out and buy another copy at Barnes & Noble. THAT book doesn’t have the right number of creases the spine, showing how often I’ve read it. THAT book doesn’t have the tiny rip in the bottom right side of the cover where my cat chewed on it. THAT book didn’t travel across the country with me. While we love spreading the joy of reading, we’re much more likely to go out and just BUY the book for someone rather than lending out own copy. Over-protective? Maybe. But there you have it. Books are priceless.
3.) Bibliophiles will try almost any book. We all have our deal-breakers, of course. (I don’t care how much you absolutely adored Stephen King’s It, I’m just never going to read it because I enjoy sleeping at night!) But at least 80% of the time, if you extol the virtues of your favorite book often enough, we’ll put it on our to-read list, even if we’re not positive we’ll love it. But YOU love it, and that’s often good enough for us.
4.) Sometimes – not always, but sometimes – we like books better than other people. I find this to be one of the hardest things for non-bibliophiles to truly grasp. We’re not being rude when we go off in a corner to read, it’s just that the book is THAT GOOD and we honestly can’t wait to turn to next page. I used to eat in a communal lunch room and one co-worker in particular would always come up and sit with me when I was reading. She couldn’t understand why I’d want to be alone when there were other people around. But here’s the thing – when we read, we’re not alone! We’re surrounded by other people.We’re interacting with an entire cast of characters. Coming up and suddenly talking to me while I’m reading is just like interrupting a conversation. If I’m reading, I’m basically talking to someone else. (Also, if you call my name when I’m reading and I don’t answer, I’m really not ignoring you! I’ve just tuned out all the background noise and I honestly can’t hear you!)
5.) We can be a bit elitist about our books. Just because we’ll try everything doesn’t mean we’ll LIKE everything. And, while we’re more likely to find at least some good in every book we read, if we reeeaaaalllly hate something, we’re not shy about saying so. Just don’t confuse this kind of elitist with someone saying you should only read so-called classics or high-brow literature. We enjoy popcorn chick-lit and sappy romances as much as Austen and Bronte! It’s more whether or not the book lives up to its own expectations. If I’m reading a romance, I expect it to be romantic. If I’m reading historical fiction, I expect to see an adequate representation of history. It’s when the book falls short of it’s own goals that we get snippy.
6.) We believe utterly and completely that books can literally change lives. We don’t mean this as a joke, or a metaphor, or an exaggeration. Books can change people. They make them think and feel new things, give them new experiences and ideas. Books can save. They can cheer us up when we’re sad, they can heal us when we’re hurting, and they feed our creativity and imagination. After reading a book, we’ve essentially lived a new life, and that can be a mind-altering experience. If we say a book impacted our lives, we mean it.
What makes you a bibliophile? Do you fall into any of these categories, or is there something else that makes you a true lover of books?