Welcome John, thank you for being here today!!
My name is John and I’m a bookaholic.
I wake up thinking about books, I go to bed thinking about books, and I spend much of my time between waking up and going to bed … thinking about books. Or buying them. Or reading them. Or writing about them.
It’s a sickness.
You know that old commercial: This is my brain on drugs?
Well, this is my brain on books.
I’d like to think that I’m pretty well tuned in to the world around me, but the truth is that the characters I fraternize with between the pages of books are as real to me as the living, breathing characters who populate my own life story. Sometimes more so.
So you can understand why picking a favorite book would be damn near impossible for me, right? (Never mind the fact that I’m notoriously indecisive.)
If I’m being honest (and I am), I often think I’d find it easier to name my favorite child. Of course, I don’t have children. (And after reading that sentiment, you’ll probably find yourself thinking good thing.) But if I did, I feel confident that I’d be able to tell you who I liked more: Jack or Jane. Just don’t confuse like with love, because you can love two people equally and unequivocally while still holding a greater degree of likeness for one.
So I’m not going to subject myself to undue torture by endeavoring to identify my favorite book. Instead, I’m going to tell you about the origins of my addiction—and my first enabler (aka my mother).
Way back when, in my young and innocent days, it was she who introduced me to the worlds that exist between pages. Oh, I tried to resist, but she just wouldn’t take no for an answer. You’ll enjoy it, she’d say. And you’ll be glad you did it after. Who can withstand that kind of pressure?
After this desensitization, she exposed my brother and me to a myriad of children’s stories. A few that I remember: The Little Engine that Could, The Elves and the Shoemaker, The Three Billy Goats Gruff. It was intoxicating stuff, and my imagination ignited with possibilities, the fantasies often clouding my reality. (Speaking of my mother, you should know that she’s a recovering Danielle Steele junkie. I swear, she’d disappear for days at a time with those novels—dinner, dishes and laundry be damned!)
As I began to mature, so, too, did my reading tastes, and I found myself desperately in search of
something to satisfy that ever-growing need. Which led me straight to my trusted suppliers: libraries and bookstores—places that, like dark alleys and deserted parking lots to druggies, continue to demand my presence.
Enter my gateway drug—err, book: Nancy Drew.
I met her at an impressionable age—though this was not without some experimentation first. But Nancy, with her blonde hair, daring nature, and feminine wiles, would not, could not, be denied. (Apologies to the Hardy Boys, who just didn’t hold the same appeal.) I found myself seeking isolation so that I could fully absorb the impact of her influence without fear of judgment or ridicule.
Of course, the more I got, the more I wanted, and soon even Nancy—Ms. Drew if you’re nasty—couldn’t fully satisfy my cravings. Instead, I needed her and … something else. But what?
There was an R.L. Stine phase (I preferred Fear Street to Goosebumps, and I still think The Babysitter books may be his best) followed by Shakespeare—though I was more a collector of his than an actual reader—and, finally, Mary Higgins Clark, America’s “Queen of Suspense.”
If Nancy Drew was my gateway to YA, then MHC was my bridge to the “hard stuff”: adult novels. (I still look forward to her annual release with glee; the high may be slightly tempered but it’s still there.) Not surprisingly, crime fiction was, and is, my genre of preference—which will undoubtedly be a topic of discussion, should I ever be brought to trial. I’ve even graduated to reading books about “real” things—but only those that fascinate me: the JFK assassination, the O.J. Simpson trial(s), the craft of writing … and the pursuit of reading.
I’ve learned a lot, both stylistically and substantially, from all these literary indulgences but the dangers of addiction are ever-present. In addition to the chronic desire to read more, own more, buy more, stay up later, skip meals, shirk work, be reclusive … there’s always the threat of the book avalanche. (I should know—I was recently awoken by a portion of my TBR pile falling on me.) But some things are worth the risk. After all, you never feel more alive than when you’re living on the edge.
My fear, though, is that this lifestyle may just be the death of me yet. As I near my thirty-second birthday (hey, you’re either a year older or dead, right?)—an occasion that will have just passed when you read this—I find myself in the midst of a move back to my childhood home, this time as co-owner. My bedroom is still strewn with the books of my adolescence, and I’ve acquired hundreds, if not thousands, more in the decade that I’ve been away. Parting with them is not an option. But do you have any idea how laborious it is to move that many books? My body may not be able to take it.
As things stand now, parting the book piles that dominate our apartment is a Moses-like feat. My wife thinks the move will rectify this; I think she’s overly optimistic. I also think her begrudging tolerance is temporary, and that I’d better learn to manage my addiction. I’m trying to get with the program. Because I really do want my storybook ending …
My name is John and I’m a bookaholic. (I also write the Hartford Books Examiner column—my earnings equate to a partial penny per page view—so please visit frequently to support my habit.)
A bit about John:
John Valeri is a thirty-something aspiring writer and ardent bibliophile who has been carrying on a lifelong love affair with books. He has written the Hartford Books Examiner column—which consistently ranks in the top ten percent of Hartford, National Books, and National Arts & Entertainment Examiners—since 2009. John’s reviews have been excerpted in more than 25 titles by authors including James Patterson, Debbie Macomber, Shania Twain and Marcia Clark. He works in human services management by day and is a proud member of the Em Dashes writers group. Contact John at OyeJohn52@aol.com.