At the age of 33, I have come to the realisation that my reading habit, so long in the making, has finally reached a level at which I think it is safe to call it “out of control.” I don’t suppose I am alone in this, but I feel like I need to make some kind of bookish confession, with the internet as my priest, to truly understand the depths of my obsession. I need to know if other people do these weird things or whether I should actually seek help.
I now carry my Kindle with me at all times (including when I go to the toilet at school and while cooking at home), just in case I find myself with seven seconds in which to read a page. I have discovered that it fits perfectly in my coat pocket, so nobody even needs to know I am carrying it with me to weird places.
I have begun to confuse reality with books. For example, last week I was teaching the Seamus Heaney poem ‘Storm on the Island,’ and decided to use a real-life example to add context. “What about Storm Allegra?” I cried. “It is pummelling the east coast of the USA, sinking several major cities forever!” The kids looked at me like I had lost it. Then I realised this was something that was happening in the book I was reading. Whoops. So I have now completely lost my grip on reality.
I hardly ever do anything social. It’s not like I get invited out much anyway, but, even when I do, I tend to see this as valuable reading time lost. Because clearly my fictional friends mean more to me than my real ones.
Sleep has now assumed a lowly position on my priority list. I have trained myself to survive on 6 hours sleep (for a couple of nights a week anyway) in order to stay up later to read. Additionally, if I wake up too early, it is highly likely that I will just stay awake and read instead of doing the sensible thing and going back to sleep. This does mean I am usually basically comatose around 3pm, but I am at work then so I wouldn’t be able to read much anyway; thus, the sacrifice is worthwhile.
My book-buying habit is completely out of control. It was my birthday last week and all I wanted were book vouchers. Some people refused to get me book vouchers, alluding to some completely bizarre theory about having too many books or something. Like that’s even a thing. Having received these vouchers, I bought three books basically immediately. While waiting for these to arrive, I bought two more books. Then I realised two of my most-anticipated reads were coming out, so I ordered them too (along with a whole other book because what is the point in paying for postage when you could just buy another book and have them sent for free, hmm?). And then I read Throne of Glass and bought the entire series, including prequel
novellas. I will counter this by pointing out that I don’t buy clothes or have any other expensive habits (you know, like eating or leaving the house), so I am unlikely to bankrupt myself, but still: this is ridiculous. These purchases are also all in addition to the pre-orders which keep arriving on my Kindle, with me having no memory of having ordered them. And NetGalley requests from ages ago which I had forgotten about. Even as I write this, I feel like I need a therapist.
While looking at possible new houses, my main concern is not a decent-sized driveway or utility room. It isn’t even something useful like location. I am entirely focused on where my books can live. We haven’t even made a sensible offer yet and I have already started sketching out the custom-built bookshelves of my dreams. Is this normal?
Look, you know what I’m talking about. Books are beautiful. They never stop fitting you, they don’t tell you that you’re boring and should go out more, and they don’t ignore you when you tell them to stop throwing pens at each other and do some work. They don’t judge. My obsession is obviously absolutely justified; it is just taking over my life.
Be honest: do you think I am beyond help? Or are all these things completely okay and, in fact, the signs of an interesting person with thousands of brilliant book recommendations for the general public?