On lending books

Sunday, April 15, 2018 - 12:46pm

I would consider myself a book hoarder. Actually, I don’t like to phrase it like that. My infatuation with books (and belief that one cannot, and should not, dispose of a book) isn’t hoarding, but rather collecting. 

If I had to give you a number off the top of my head, I’d say my collection is nearing 500 in my childhood bedroom at home. Of course, in the space and time between my last visit to New Jersey, I’ve picked up a few more. I’ve developed quite the reputation as the book girl, building my own little library — a wall of literary fortitude, if you will — since I was in my early teens. I’d say there’s an idiosyncrasy to my personal library, as one often sees in independent bookstores. Its genres range from peculiar autobiography and obscure historical non-fiction to touching memoir, trashy and indulgent fiction, poetry, a good deal of inherited Kerouac and a favorite genre of mine: personal essays. The best part about my library is that I’ve read every book I own, and each holds its own personal anecdotes (and coffee stains) from when I last took a trip through their pages. 

With books as my mentor from a young age, I quickly took on the understated habit of recommending books to those who looked in need of some guidance — even when they didn’t ask. 

I annotate my books generously, especially those I’ve read more than once. Some of the margins are so tattooed with pen markings that it seems like the text and my notes are intertwined in a love affair of annotation and narrative. I find myself writing poems and memories down in book sleeves and at the bottom of a page, and each time I finish a book, I like to go back and read just what I was thinking when I was on pages 13, 67 or 402. 

Due to my extensive collection and desire to have no obligations but to read from morning to night, I am constantly asked to recommend to friends, family members, strangers and acquaintances something to read. Often times I find myself lending books of my own after writing my name in the inside cover and off handedly reminding its receiver to ignore the poetry in the margins. 

Recommending books, as simple or silly as it may seem, is a responsibility I take very seriously. I find solace in the moment someone who I spoke to on the phone or in the aisles of a favorite bookstore just a week before texts me and says, “I just finished (insert book name here). It was so good.  I couldn’t put it down.” Then we get to talk about a piece of art and beauty and happiness that I handed over to them. 

When someone contacts me with the desire to read, I probably overreact, but there’s something about people of this generation (or people at all) having a desire to read books. Not screens or Netflix or sleep –– but people who desire to lose themselves in a story. Once I talk to the person a little about what they want to read, what they liked in the past, where they feel like they are in life right now (cover all the bases), I can prescribe them the perfect antidote. A little rest, recovery and break from reality, a book can be a better cure than any prescription. Sometimes I feel like my little library is a drug store or a pharmacy, and with me prescribing the medication, it’s the closest to a doctor I’ll ever get. “Eli’s Apothecary for the Bibliophile.”

Maybe I know what I’ll do after graduation after all. I’ll move into a little cottage somewhere warm, where people get up early and drink their cappuccinos foamy. I’ll open up a bookstore. Day in and day out, customers will come by and describe their symptoms. I’ll listen to them, talk to them, we’ll laugh and cry and they’ll never leave empty handed. 

They’ll leave with a stack of books and simple instructions: Come back when you’re finished so we can talk about everything you know now that you didn’t know before. 

Doctor’s orders. 

 

A few recommendations I have right now (general): 

“The Wrong Way to Save Your Life” by Megan Stielstra 

“Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 

“Paris by the Book” by Liam Callanan