First Step: Admit You Have A Problem

Today I got a library card, my first in over ten years. I needed to check out the book for my “real” book club that meets next Tuesday. All I had to do was go in, sign up for the card, grab the book, check it out, and go home.

In some ways, public libraries sadden me. So many of the titles on the shelves look like they haven’t been checked out in a decade or longer, it feels a bit like a government nursing home for books. I feel like I should check some of them out and take them to the mall or a movie, just to get them a bit of fresh air, let them see what’s changed around the neighborhood.

In other ways, public libraries remind me: I have a serious problem. I’m like one of those people who cannot stop adopting pets from the shelter, or like that woman who just had the octuplets even though she already has six kids under age eight at home. I am a book addict. Nobody would be foolish enough to suggest to an alcoholic that she attend parties with an open bar because THE DRINKS ARE FREE AND YOU CAN HAVE AS MANY AS YOU WANT. But time and again, people tell me, “You like to read so much, you should get a library card. I am surprised you don’t have one!

Sometimes an alcoholic stays off the sauce long enough to forget its power. So it was with me and the library. I walked in, calmly applied for my card, and went straight to the shelf to grab my book. Walking through the stacks on my way to check out, I thought it couldn’t hurt to take a look and see what else they had. The next thing I knew, I’d spotted five more books I wanted to pick up and take home with me (these at a cursory glance–I knew there were more), along with a running list in my head of titles to check for at other branches so I could place them on hold.

From the far corner of by brain came a voice: “Remember your TBR pile.”

Oh that. Right. The sixty-or-so some-odd books at home, books I own, waiting to be read. Bunch of party-pooper goody-goodies sitting quietly on the shelf, waiting for me to pick them up and read them. Your basic buzz killers, reprimanding me from afar.

“Too bad,” I told the voice. “All these books are here, and I want to take them all home with me.”

But then I thought of Bob, of the look on his face when I arrived home with a giant stack of books. (The limit is twenty-five, people. Twenty-five!) I pictured the questions forming behind his brown eyes: “Where will you put them all? When will you read them? What about the other stacks of books all over the house? Who will take care of them?”

For Bob’s sake, I stopped, took a deep breath. In the end I managed to get out of the library with only two books, my book club book (The Stone Diaries) and one of the January selections for Andrew’s Book Club, Lauren Groff’s Delicate Edible Birds. I also placed a hold on one of this month’s selections, Swimming with Strangers. And I swear that’s all. I’m not going to add more books to my hold. I swear. I will think of the TBR pile. I can do this.

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