Friday, 25 January 2013

A Change of Heart

Book lover

It all began with Sweet Valley Twins No. 12. My ten-year-old self was rummaging through my mother's work drawers (without her knowledge of course) and discovered the confiscated treasure. An unfortunate student in her fifth grade class was caught reading the book during lessons and was severely punished. The book was returned eventually but not before I have been drawn to the fictional world of Jessica and Elizabeth in sunny California where adventure beckoned at every turn. 

By the time I was twelve and have read at least a hundred books on the series, half of them I owned, I was ready to move on. Well, to Babysitter's Club that is, where I collected at least 30 books on the series. Then in high school, I discovered the thicker volumes of Sydney Sheldon, John Grisham, Ken Follet and Mary Higgins Clark amongst others. My bookshelf has begun to look like a library, with a single author having five or more books on my shelf. The best count was Agatha Christie's with a whopping 50 books, most of them bought from my allowance as a staff writer in a corporate paper whilst at college. 

This compulsion only grew stronger once I entered the working world. Reading has become my escape from the lonely weekends I would spend in my windowless room in Makati where I would read until the wee hours of the morning lit only by a dim bedside lamp (how I managed to keep a 20/20 vision until now is still a mystery). Three years in that miserable dump has produced a hundred more paperback novels and hardbound books from my weekly visits to the bookshops. 

When I left to work overseas, I sent all of them home with a heavy heart. But the habit did not die. Even a cramped country like Gibraltar has an abundance of second-hand novels that soon I was rebuilding a library. By this time, it was no longer about reading them, it has become a desire to hoard evidenced by the fact that of the 15 James Patterson novels I have bought from my brief fascination with his psychological thrillers, I have only finished three. But this realisation did not stop me from acquiring more. Of the two medium boxes I packed when I left for Britain, a quarter was occupied by my books alone. 

This addiction was not helped by the wealth of charity shops selling cheap second hand books in Sheffield. I stopped buying bestsellers and started collecting works of critically acclaimed novelists hoping that I would be able to learn from them. But the more I collected them, the less time I have to flip through their pages and before I knew it, another hundred books have gathered dusts and cobwebs in our library. 

If they can only sit in the bookshelf until I would have time for them, then it wouldn't have been a problem. But we have moved into four different houses in the last three years and the storage problem has propped up in more than two occasions, an issue I refused to acknowledge but it was something that my husband was determined to address. 

"A Kindle is the answer", he said one day. 
"I don't know", I replied. "It wouldn't be the same."

Besides, it was everything against my principles, Amazon being one of the biggest tax evaders of this country and the cause of so many businesses in the high street closing down. 

But his insistence and another imminent move sealed the deal and last week, we bought the handheld device from a tax-paying company that sells the product which turned out better than expected. 

I would still prefer the paperback of course and someday when we have finally 'settled down', I might have a chance to rebuild my library. But for the meantime, my beloved books will find a home in my sister's bookshelves in our family home where the rest of the 400 novels she has inherited dwells (memories of our childhood she says, that's why she refuses to give any of them away). And the Kindle will keep me company for now. 

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