The Daily Bongo

My Reading Addiction

Reading is a joy of mine. Actually it goes much farther than that. It is an addiction. Not only must I read every day, but I have compulsions about what I must read. I have to read the news mailing lists to which I subscribe. I have to read the magazines that I get--cover to cover. I have to check out the news feeds on the web. I have to subscribe and read mailing lists on topics that I enjoy such as mystery books and television shows. It's never ending, and sometimes it's like an avalanche of information that overwhelms me. I fall behind in my magazines, and sometimes read the news weeks after it has actually occurred. You would think that I could just admit defeat and say "it's old news. Things have moved on and so should I." No. It is like the climber and the mountain. I read it because it is there. Granted, I have enough reading material to keep myself entertained for months, but I still have to get more. I stop at the library. I order books online. I subscribe to more magazines.

How did this addiction start? My earliest memories are filled with reading. I don't ever remember not being able to read. I have a photo of my family when I was one and a half years old. My father, mother, brother and I are grouped together in the living room. They are all staring and smiling at the camera. My eyes, however, are diverted to the little book that I hold in my hands. I can see the yearning to decipher the mystery that the book holds. There is so much to learn, and it is all out there on the printed page. Reading came by osmosis. I would force people to read to me, often to the annoyance of the reader because I was insatiable. I could hear the same story an infinite amount of times and still find enjoyment in it. Because of this, my mother would sometimes make up a story based on the pictures. Mistakenly I assumed that she was illiterate. I could read the words on the page now, unbeknownst to my other family members, and I thought that she was making up the story because she was unable to read. I pretended not to notice because I could only imagine her shame at not being able to read. However, with that mistaken realization, I stopped asking my mother to read me stories.

My first grown up book was Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. I was seven years old, and quite excited to be reading a book that was mostly words instead of pictures. I always preferred a book that was more word heavy that picture heavy. My father quizzed me after I had read only a few pages to make certain that I knew the meaning of the words. When I admitted that I didn't know all the words, he told me to ask him if I came across a word that I didn't know. A few days later, I received my first dictionary and was able to look up all the words that I didn't know. It made the reading process tedious at first because I was constantly stopping to look up words, but as time passed the need to look up words lessened. I moved on to other books, but every summer I would revisit my relationship with Tom Sawyer. I added a second book to the summer reading list, and that was David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. As I read books, the characters would come alive to me. Many a summer day, Tom, Huck and I would sail down the Mississippi having grand adventures. Physically, I was on a worn blanket that I had thrown on the floor to mimic a raft, but mentally I was miles and years away, seeing the Mississippi all around me, hearing the water slosh against my raft and smelling the damp decay from the island we passed.

Today I don't have time for rereading books. The piles of books grow and take on a life of their own. There are so many that they can be used to create chairs or tables when not being read. Requirements have to be met before another book is purchased. Have I finished reading one before I get another? The compulsion runs deep though, and when a new book comes out by my favorite author, I feel myself salivating over the thought of holding the book in my hands, smelling the sweet perfume of the inked page. I wonder to myself what adventures I will have while journeying through the author's mind. While I read, I leave my physical self and find myself part of the story. I haven't found a cure for my addiction, and I have to admit that's not such a bad thing after all.

August 12, 2005