In the past year or so, I've come to the realization that, although I thought my life was full of friends who are as obsessed with books (and, well, you know reading them) as I am, it really isn't. With the exception of all those of you who read my blog and write about books yourselves (and who seemed to understand that book slut post of mine so well), it seems I have very few friends who share this obsession of mine to the same degree that I have it. They may be somewhat obsessed or have an obsession that somewhat resembles a book obsession but that really isn't. Probably less than a handful or so of my non-blogging friends have even half the book obsession I have. Let's take a look at some of the categories of people who have fooled me into thinking they are as book obsessed as I am but who really can't hold a candle to me:
1. The reading obsessed. Really, there is a difference, so please hear me out. I'm becoming suspicious of my beloved husband as far as this category goes. Yes, it does seem that he would rather spend money on books than just about anything else (only CDs and pens can compete, which is why he and I are so compatible), but he is perfectly content if he finds himself with several days in a row in which he doesn't pick up a single book. As long as he can read through the local papers and can entertain himself with the likes of The New Yorker and Sports Illustrated, my guess is he could go a week or more without ever cracking the spine of a book. Those who fall into the reading obsessed category do have to read and would go nuts without any reading material, but they are not book obsessed. Me? I'd be fine if all newspapers, magazines, and (maybe, even, God forbid) blogs and Facebook suddenly disappeared. Don't take my books away, though. I might last a day or two before winding up in the hospital, gasping for breath, my heart at the rate of all of two beats per minute.
2. Those who don't read specific genres. "I don't read mysteries," someone will say to me when I am rhapsodizing about how much I like John Connolly. Nothing like putting a damper on conversation, huh? You know, I am game for any good book, and I don't care at all about the genre. In fact, damn the genre. If you ask me what sorts of books I enjoy, I wouldn't be likely to say, "romances," and yet I've certainly read quite a few in my lifetime and have come, over the past few years, to really enjoy someone like Georgette Heyer. I will say that I don't think I've ever read any westerns, but if someone were to come along, waxing poetic about some western she'd read, I'd take note and seek it out next time I was at the library.
3. Those who don't read contemporary fiction. Like those who don't read specific genres, they can fool you. It isn't as though they can't talk books with someone who is book obsessed. However, again, if they put such limits on which books they will and won't read, well, then, they are mere pikers when it comes to obsession. Beware someone who disparages anything written post-1940 who will challenge you to name those authors you think will be on college reading lists in 2110 (a fun game I like to play, but a ridiculous challenge when taken seriously, no? I bet nobody predicted Charlotte Bronte would last. And, what, in 100 years, no one's going to study late 20th and 21st-century works?). Sometimes, these people prove themselves to be a little more book-obsessed than they let on, and you just might catch them reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo ("Yes, but that doesn't count. It isn't literature") or Freedom ("Well, I had to see what all the fuss was about, didn't I?). Be polite, even though they have, for years, been mocking the fact that you read and love John Irving. Some just aren't quite willing to admit to and embrace their obsessions the way those of us with high self-esteem can.
4. Those who don't read nonfiction. I may argue vociferously with most of the nonfiction I read, but how can someone who is book-obsessed not read it, at least on occasion? Let's say all you read is fiction. That's fine. Maybe you're fiction obsessed, but you certainly aren't book obsessed. You see, the truly book obsessed can't read something like The Postmistress, which I just finished reading, and not find herself adding titles to her TBR list that the author lists as sources she used for research before writing the book. I became extremely interested in American radio reporting during WWII while reading this book. I don't know how anyone reads fiction about some, until then, unexplored, but fascinating, subject, without finding a desire to read a nonfiction title or two. If nothing else, doesn't fiction lead to wanting to read biographies and autobiographies of the authors who write it?
5. Those who don't buy books or have any in their homes. I'm sorry. You may be someone who reads 5 books a week, but if you never buy or own any, you are not book obsessed. Reading obsessed, yes, but not book obsessed. I don't even care if you tell me you can't afford to buy books. Those who are truly book obsessed can remember days when, even though barely squeaking by on a library assistant's salary, living in one of the most expensive places in the country to live, they decided to buy fewer groceries the week of the used book sale in order to be able to get lots of cheap books instead.
6. Those who don't have a favorite publisher. Really. Even before I worked in the publishing industry, I knew that Penguin and Algonquin were two of my favorite publishers. I also knew that I loved Knopf. Yes, I am mostly author-driven and will happily follow an author from publisher to publisher, however, if I'm looking to discover new authors I've never read? Well, I certainly know which catalogs/web sites I'm going to browse first.
7. Those who can walk into Borders with money to spend, planning to buy, and walk out empty handed. What? How the hell can you do that? I can't imagine finding nothing to read out of thousands and thousands of books. I can go into a house with one small bookcase of books, and, as long as it holds a variety of titles (I mean, I might not be able to find something on a bookcase full of engineering manuals), I can find at least ten books to read. Someone who can find nothing to buy at Borders is not book obsessed.
So, there we have it. My 7 categories of "You can't fool me. I know you aren't really book obsessed." Are there any others? Help me out, all you other book obsessives out there.