As I write this, this morning I went to my local library before it opened to drop off some books on the way to work that I had finished reading and reviewing, as is often my fashion. As it happened, I arrived at the library at the same time as an elderly lady who was dropping off books of her own, and I could tell by the visible signs of concern and alarm that she felt that I was up to some sort of shady behavior and that she was in some danger, until I gave her a bit of space as she put her books in the return slit, and then placed my books in it after she was done. Once she realized that I was a fellow bibliophile and not someone with mischief in mind, she told me that she should have offered to return my books for me. I smiled and told her that’s alright, as more often than I care to admit others view me with unnecessary concern and alarm as I am going about in my eccentric and quirky but mostly harmless way. That is, after all, part of what happens when one is a bibliophile of such flamboyance and conspicuousness as I am.
Being a bibliophile is something that has come naturally and easily for me since my early childhood, as the following anecdotes ought to demonstrate. As a kindergarten student in a rural elementary school in Central Florida, my teacher called home one day both slightly irritated and excited that I was able to read, a fact which was treated with total nonchalance by my family, because I read the newspaper every morning before going to school, so seeing me read was not unusual at all. In fact, it became so obvious that I was the most prolific reader in my family that books were among the first gifts ever given to me by my father when I first saw him after five years, notwithstanding the fact that relatives frequently gave me books when they moved from one place to another and did not have the space to keep their full library, since they knew at least one relative would appreciate them. Books continue to be the frequent source of amusement, especially when people buy me the same book over and over again .
In my own life, being a bibliophile has provided the source of both amusement and frustration. For example, owning a massive and accidental traveling library and having to schlep books all over the place when one moves is not enjoyable . Receiving extra copies of books because of malfunctions in warehousing can be a bit puzzling . Waiting for books to come, either when one is obsessively checking the book requests on one’s local library site or waiting for publishers to send books can try one’s patience . On the other hand, it can be a pleasure to go to church and talk about books with other people who share one’s tastes in reading, it can be amusing to watch people read books a bit too enthusiastically  even as one is carrying around too many books in one’s backpack, or doing one’s own reading in cars, lobbies, living rooms, restaurants, bars, buses, break rooms, or airports.
During my mid-twenties, when I lived in Florida, I served as an officer for the Florida Bibliophile Society. It was a worthwhile experience, and I would happily continue such efforts if I knew of a close society where I lived here in Oregon. During my time as part of the society, I gave a talk on William Tyndale as an example of a religious bibliophile, someone who was immensely well-read and a speaker and reader of many languages, but someone whose interests were narrowly focused on scriptural matters. At other times the society would discuss matters of paper and font choice and the aesthetics of book cover design and encourage the amateur or professional study of library science. As someone whose interest in books has sometimes tended to isolate me from others who were less bookish, it was a pleasure to be a part of a society of like-minded people who, if they were all much older than me, were people who shared my passion for books.
Being a bibliophile can be a bit difficult sometimes on one’s budget. For example, one requires a great deal of self-discipline to go into bookstores and avoid spending too much money . Being on a first name basis with one’s UPS driver because one is ordering so many books on amazon.com is probably a bad thing. Likewise, it may be a bit narcissistic to read books in the hope that one may see one’s name as a tag for a journal one reviews books for, to collect a lengthy list of one’s scholarly book reviews , or to hope that one may become one of the recognized top 5 reviewers for various publishers for being so prolific as a reader. At times, being a bibliophile can be the source of a bit of embarrassment, as I remember one time at the Feast of Tabernacles in Escondido, California going to the local Barnes and Noble and spending ten minutes and about $100 purchasing books only from the discount area. While each of the books may have been inexpensive individually, 13 of them together made for an impressive haul that stunned the person I was shopping with to silence. One can love books too much, after all.
Being a bibliophile is one of those habits that tends to change one’s life. It gives one a large vocabulary that marks one as well read. It gives one ready subjects for conversation, and the ability to share an appreciation for learning with others. It gives one a hobby that will fill one’s house or apartment and empty one’s wallet, to pass hours to relieve or avoid boredom, and will give one the urge to critically examine the libraries of one’s friends or acquaintances when one visits their own homes. Often, without serious intent, filling oneself with the reflections and thoughts and ideas of others often allows those thoughts and ideas, when combined with our own experiences, to give us the material to become serious and prolific writers ourselves. Likewise, it is a habit that can mark one out on a regular basis, whether one is collecting an alarming number of library cards from frequent moves , developing a friendly relationship with editors of various journals related to books because one is so frequently reviewing their books, or whether other people notice that every day one is bringing a different book to read.
It is also striking that being a bibliophile is not something that attracts a great deal of attention as a subject to write about. To be sure, some people collect bibliographies which demonstrate their interest in books , while others post wish lists of books on commercial sites that quickly become obsolete, or have several hundred books in mind to read from their own local library, to give a personal example. Yet at the same time few people write in detail about what it means to be a bibliophile. Many contemporary bibliophiles have placed large collections on slim and attractive devices, which makes it hard for others to know what books they are reading, or how quickly they progress through their collections. Those of us who are somewhat old-fashioned in our reading tastes and who like the tactile aspects of running a finger or turning pages are much more obvious in reading, unless we disguise our reading behind book jackets, which is not something I tend to do personally. So, I have thought it worthwhile to share my own experiences as a bibliophile, to confess my perhaps excessive and slightly inappropriate affection for books, not least in the hope that it may encourage other people to feel less awkward or embarrassed about their own bibliophilia. Time will tell if the effort is successful.
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