This kind of post isn’t new. I ain’t special. The interwebs is brimming with people who love to – le gasp – read. However, a sizable chunk of those people simply like books. “Why, whatever is the difference?” You ask me from across the table, pinching the handle of a tea cup between your index and thumb – pinky erect. “Well, good chap, in honor of Banned Books Week, let me enlighten you…”
(Why the hell this just turned into a Downton Abbey outtake, I have no clue).
Those who love reading may be categorized under the general term of “bibliophile.” According to Merriam-Webster Online, a bibliophile is “a lover of books, especially for qualities of format.” It doesn’t get much simpler than “book lover” in the etymological breakdown. Bibliophiles are people who love to read, collect, admire books, etc.
And then there is the “bibliomaniac“: someone with “an exaggerated preoccupation with the acquisition and ownership of books” (Free Online Dictionary). This is someone who love books not so much for their content, but for the value of the physical books themselves. If you’re familiar with a certain page on my site, you may have already realized that I have slight bibliomaniacal tendencies. Basically, a bibliomaniac is a book hoarder. How glamorous.
Exhibit A) I brought four books with me on my travels this summer:
There’s even a book that isn’t pictured here: I had left the book on a table in a hotel for someone else to take, since I was finished with it and knew I would never read it again. (It was Deception Point by Dan Brown. Entertaining for a mass market paperback, but not worth keeping – and coming from a hoarder, that’s saying something.)
So there’s the thing, I have a tendency to collect books that I think I’m going to read (and by golly, I will!) and books that I think are impressive (I mean, Classics of Moral and Political Theory? Really?) – but I do really like to read as well. I’m not voracious or all that ambitious of a reader. I just like having a book now and then. Sometimes, I don’t quite feel entitled to say that I love to read. True bibliophiles seem to have a new book brushing their noses every week, while I go through periods where I don’t read anything substantial from a book for weeks (not including textbooks and required reading).
Therefore am I a noble bibliophile or a poser, a materialistic bibliomaniac?
Well, neither, obviously. To even have this discussion- sure, books and reading are great, but they don’t need their own pedestal. Yes, encourage literacy among our children, but there’s no need to ram it down their throats and make them feel bad if they don’t like sitting around reading books day and night. It takes all kinds. And is there a need to shame bibliomaniacs for liking books just because they look nice or have some value not related to their content? Of course not. Obsessing over a first printing of a Dostoevsky novel is definitely not the worst form of materialism.
What does bibliophilia/mania mean to you? Where do you fall in the spectrum? And what have you read recently? Share some recommendations in the comments! (As if us maniacs needed more books).
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