Or why I bought 81 Dragonlance novels
In his lifetime, Sir Philip Thomas (1792-1872) acquired over 160,000 books and manuscripts, draining his substantial inheritance in the process and reducing his family to poverty. Philip had what is now known as bibliomania (literally “book madness”), the extreme preoccupation with collecting books and a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
I must admit I see a little of Sir Philip in myself.
In a Google deep dive last year, I discovered “book lots” on eBay. These large collections of books are auctioned off—for the most part—quite cheaply. I spent every free minute drooling over these lots, some with as many as 500 books. Finally, I gave in and ordered one.
For $170, I purchased 81 Dragonlance novels (a series of tie-in novels for a Dungeons and Dragons setting). It may be the most impulsive thing I have ever done. I had read only one novel in the series before. In fact, I hadn’t read fantasy in years. Meanwhile, my shelves groaned under the weight of unread books.
When the box arrived, I was delirious. But as the excitement faded, I knew I had to rein in my acquisition of books or be crushed by them in my sleep. This resolution lasted six weeks.
For me, Little Free Libraries, those “take a book, leave a book” boxes, are the equivalent of crack handed out on street corners. It was only a matter of time before I broke and came home with a set of 10 Star Trek novels. They looked so pretty, so chronological, I couldn’t help it.
Though I joke about it, my bibliomania is real, though not life-altering and a habit I can afford (provided I stop the book lots). Then again, replace “bibliomania” in that sentence with alcohol or cigarettes or cocaine, and you have the classic addict’s excuse.
I get a high holding a book. I savor the smell of paper, the feel of the pages, the pride of owning something so magical. Within this perfect package is an adventure waiting for me.
Still, I will not be another Sir Philip Thomas. I enjoy reading books more than I do collecting them. I never pick up a book that I don’t plan on reading “sometime.” In the meantime, I’m chiseling away at those Dragonlance novels. They are the perfect fluff on rainy days.
I pray that before I die I’ll have no more unread books on my shelves. I better get reading.
NOTE: While this article has been lighthearted, if you or someone you know is hoarding and/or stealing books, please seek help. It is a serious psychiatric disorder.