Confessions From a Book Voyeur

I have a confession to make.

I am a book voyeur.

Whenever I enter a space for the first time, I immediately scan the room for bookshelves. If my eyes are lucky enough to land upon shelves laden with tomes, I find myself pulled towards the books as surely as iron to a magnet. My head soon takes on that particular tilt used to read the turned titles and my hand gently glides along the spines. As I scan the selections, I am taking in information about their owner: interests, abandoned hobbies, areas of study, preferred escapes and future dreams. The books don’t waste time on small talk; each one is there for a purpose and that is communicated through its glossy cover.

Sometimes, even if I am in mid-conversation, I start to slide the books off the shelf, one at a time, and flip through them. If one catches my eye, I will sit cross-legged on the floor next to the bookshelf and I will begin to read. I have been known not to stop until the final page is turned.

My ex-husband and I had hundreds of books between us. We each had our own nonfiction libraries. Mine was filled with math and science books, his with graphic design and rendering texts. We had a co-mingled fiction library overrun with horror and scifi. When I left, I left most of that library behind, as I no longer had the space to store so many books. In the past few years, I have accumulated a small collection again. A collection that speaks to visitors about me.

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Calculus& Trig books: I rescued some of the main books I used to use for tutoring from my old house. I haven’t tutored in the past 3 years, but it is always a fallback income. I also have a full collection of math books (algebra & geometry) in my classroom.

Mary Roach’s books: These are the only other rescues. I had just discovered her when my ex left and I couldn’t bear to part with them yet.

Nutrition and wellness texts: These were from my certification program to become a nutrition and wellness coach.

The Lucifer Principle: I picked this up in the bargain aisle at Barnes and Noble while waiting for a date.

Javascript: This was a gift from my dad as I was exploring career options post-divorce. I made it about 1/3 of the way through (doing the exercises along the way) and I fully intend to complete the program.

Shift : I love this book. I use its ideas with coaching clients all the time.

Growing Through Divorce :The only divorce themed book on my shelf, other than mine:)

Lessons From the End of a Marriage: Still feels strange to see my dream in paperback.

The Sociopath Next Door: The first reading I did that gave me something to think about regarding my ex’s mental state.

Hiking and camping books: Duh. You can’t tell me you’re surprised? 🙂

Dictionary: I usually use the one on the computer, but I sometimes like to read the real version for fun. Nerd alert #1.

Stephen Hawkins: Nerd alert #2.

Stephen King: He has been my favorite author since I was 10. I used to have the entire collection. Now, I have two real books and many more on my Kindle. I love his blend of gritty reality and fantasy.

In Search of the Warrior Spirit: This is one that Brock loaned me that ended up in my collection. All his reading centers on martial arts, survival, and training. He directs some of them my way and I’m often surprised to find how much I relate. I love how he and I learn parallel lessons through different avenues.

Dean Koontz and Six Degrees of Separation: Nope, not related except that I bought them from the same used book store on an emergency book run while on a visit to San Antonio.

Nicholas Evans – The Divide: Waaaay out of my usual genre. This was snatched from my mom’s bookshelf on that same trip. This is why I love my Kindle so much – I never have to worry about running out of books again:)

Seattle books: These were a gift from my dad when I was planning on moving to the rainy city.

The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao: This was a hand me down from a guy I briefly dated.

Mental Floss’s History of the World: I love Mental Floss’s brand of intellectual entertainment. My mom bought this for me from the Carlos Museum’s gift shop while she was in Atlanta for a visit.

During our first holiday season together, Brock grew tired of the spread of books that followed me around his house. He bought me a Kindle, expecting that small tablet would eliminate the literary clutter. Much to his dismay, for the first year or so, it was simply another book, keeping the library loans company. In time, however, I have shifted my reading habits. The library now offers Kindle loans and Amazon always has a selection of free reads. I rarely read print books anymore. This works well for me. It saves space, time, and wrist strength. I thought I would miss the tangible feel of the paper and the distinctive odor that belies the age of the pages, but I do not. What I do miss is the decreasing ability to scan bookshelves. I have no shame in handling the books of a near-stranger, but I would never dream of pursuing the menu of someone’s e-reader of choice. Our choice of books has become more private even as we increasingly live our lives openly online.

Consider yourself warned. If I ever find myself invited into your space, your medicine cabinet is safe. You can trust me with your wallet or your kids. But you might need to watch me around your books:) After all, it’s only fair. I showed you mine.

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8 thoughts on “Confessions From a Book Voyeur

  1. I am a lover of garage sale books. I am so cheap yet do recycle these to friends and coworkers. I also will read a whole book if I get a chance
    to have a whole day to myself! I will someday get your book!!

    1. …and once you do, please recycle it by passing it on:) This is one of the things I love about physical books. Sometimes when I read an old paperback, I think about all of the hands it has passed through.

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