When I was eight years old, some obscure relative visiting for Christmas dinner asked me the question that people ask when they don’t know what to say to a child. ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’
I didn’t miss a beat. ‘I want to be a reader.’
The relative looked a little confused—probably because she never read much—and smiled so sweet it dripped of sugar. ‘Why, sweetie, you can’t be a reader. There’s no such career.’
Even back then I was stubborn and—as my grandmother used to say—I’d bust a gut to do the very thing I was told I couldn’t. So I became the best reader an eight year old could be and kept on reading with a passionate drive right through high school and into college. Somewhere along the way I understood I wanted to be a writer. So obscure relative, I guess you were right. There is no such thing as a professional reader. I guess, but who knows maybe there is. My desire to be a professional reader was a foretelling of the future, of the obsession that would own me. Yes. I have a dark secret. I am an addict. My addiction takes money out of my grocery budget, and it sure doesn’t help that I have to pass a bookstore on the way to shop for food.
“Yes, I am Ann Hite, and I am a bookoholic.”
You’re laughing or at least shaking your head, but I’ve been known to have several copies of one book, example: The Secret Life Of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. I use this book to lure unsuspecting readers into the hardcore material. I’ve been know to have both hardbacks and paperbacks of the same title. And, I will purchase a book I own because the cover art changed. Case in point: the Hours by Michael Cunningham. Of course at Christmas and birthdays, I’m an easy present. Just give me a gift card to my local bookstore.
My addiction has worked for me. As I pointed out I have a career due to my insatiable desire to do more than just drink in words. I’m a novelist. I allow sentences, paragraphs, and pages to move through me onto paper and the computer screen. Yes, I often write in old fashion longhand and read real physical books, instead of looking at a reader screen. Ah, but the times are changing, and don’t think the temptation to have my entire library with me all the time isn’t huge. At some point the longing will win, and I will research what works best for me.
My writing room surprisingly has only two bookcases. But on the shelves are the books that drove me to become a reader and then a writer. Go Dog Go, The Cat In The Hat, The Lion, Witch, and The Wardrobe, Tom Sawyer, Jane Eyre, To Kill A Mockingbird, Breakfast At Tiffany’s, Secret Life Of Bees, gods In Alabama, Time Is A River, Hold Up The Sky, Tomato Girl, and The Help, just to name a few. This leaves my desk to sit under a huge window that looks out over the urban landscape where I live. There I dream of my books belonging to fellow addicts like myself.
My addiction has been widely accepted and even useful. High school and college students will come to me for required reading of the classics. Friends and family now understand they will receive a book for special occasions, whether they want it or not.
I’ve accept my need. I embrace the scent of a brand new book hot off the presses. I am a reader, a professional reader. Those close to me have learned to live with my passion. I am what I am, a book junkie.
Now you know, and if you’re reading this on Christmas Eve while your family gathers around the hearth, there is a good chance you too are an addict. So excuse me. I’m off to cook my holiday dinner and get to bed so I can dream of books dancing in my head.
Good night. May you and your family have the best of the season. And may all your book requests be filled. ;)
Ghost On Black Mountain
Gallery Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster)