It used to be that I would only request a few books a week from my local library. Books I’d been wanting to read for a while or books that friends had recommended, occasionally a title I had read about in the Sunday “Books” section of my local newspaper. It was a good system – read a few books, turn them back in, pick up a few more. Sometimes I would peruse the shelves and check out a few titles, but as my local library is older and somewhat small, there isn’t a lot of variety housed there so I mainly use it as a pick up location for interlibrary loan requests (although the librarians are always good for a smile and a friendly “hello”).
My gateway drug to out-of-control requesting was awards lists: Hugo Awards, World Fantasy Awards, Pulitzer Prizes. At first I would just request the winners, but before too long, I started requesting from the short lists of nominees if the books looked at all interesting. I figured that if they were up for a prestigious award, they had to be good, right? That led to scrutinizing long lists of nominees – National Book Awards, British Fantasy Awards, Locus Awards, PEN Literary Awards, BSFAs, Nebulas – for anything that looked engaging to my own whims. My list of book requests swelled from two to three a week, to six or seven, more sometimes.
Surprisingly enough, I also got quite a few titles from late night television talk shows – “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and “The Colbert Report” are actually pretty good resources for authors talking about books that I otherwise may not have noticed; even David Letterman can come up with some engaging author interviews at times. I “discovered” The Reason I Jump through Jon Stewart, along with Mookie Wilson and Mariana Rivera’s autobiographies, Resa Aslan’s Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, David Rakoff’s Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish, among others, and Stephen Colbert introduced me to the likes of California by Edan Lepucki, S. by Doug Dorst and J.J. Abrams (the only request I made from Santa last Christmas), Aimless Love by Billy Collins (a book of poetry, no less – and a great one!) and so on. (Although, I will admit that an author talking about his or her works may get me interested, only to have the interest leech away once I actually have the book in hand….)
My saving grace, or rather, what allowed me to feel like I was still in control, was that lot of other people were also requesting the same books, and sometimes – oftentimes – my request would go into a queue. That kept me from being deluged with books all at once, usually.
And, when I requested a very popular book, such as Jodi Picoult’s The Storyteller, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl or J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy, the wait could take weeks or even months. (The longest queue I’ve ever been in was for William Kent Krueger’s newest Cork O’Connor book, Windigo Island – it was over 1,200 requests at one point; I placed my request over a month ago and I’m currently sitting at number 612 out of 1,083 – we love William Kent Krueger here in Minnesota!). I think the longest I have waited for a book was almost six months. But that’s okay – I know I’m in queue. I know I’ll get the book sooner or later.
Yet while I could evidence a patience for books in queue, my desire for even more books to read grew. I didn’t even notice the warning signs.
I began to subscribe to publisher’s newsletters: Orbit, Random House, Little Brown and Company, Hatchett, Penguin, William Morrow, HarperCollins, Alfred A. Knopf, Greywolf, but especially, Tor. I love Tor. They publish exactly the kind of books I love to read: fantasy, speculative fiction, science fiction. Jo Walton, Catherynne M. Valente, Wesley Chu, Max Gladstone, Melinda Snodgrass, John Scalzi… So many books! And I wanted them all!
And I “friended” some wonderfully accessible authors on Facebook and Twitter, witty and thoughtful authors who graciously shared thoughts and ideas, musings, publication information and their own recommendations (Jacqueline Carey, Cory Doctorow, Cat Rambo, John Scalzi, Mary Robinette Kowal, Guy Gavriel Kay, Paolo Bacigalupi, Brady Allen, Cheri Priest, Tad Williams, etc.). Who better to share insight into some great reading than from those who themselves make a living writing, eh?
My library queue was starting to get out of control. It grew from ten, a dozen, fifteen, twenty.
And then the bottom fell out.
I started getting emails and posts on social media about lists of upcoming books. Books that were releasing this month, next month, the best of upcoming summer reads or fall reads, not-to-be-missed new releases, must-read this and can’t-miss that, lists and catalogs and recommendations simply bursting out of my email box, from my Facebook and Twitter feeds – and dang, there were so many darned good looking, enticing, I-gotta-get-my-hands-on-these books!
I began requesting scads of books that not only were new, but had not been released yet! It was almost a competition to see how quickly a I could request a book that had just been announced. If I did it quickly enough, I might be one of the first to read an exciting new release! (Sometimes the library wouldn’t even have a listing of the book I wanted – so I learned how to utilize their “Suggest a Title” option.) Delay could mean being in the triple digits of requesters, not in the top ten! My request queue started to be punctuated by books “on order” as well as books already in circulation, and I got a keen sense of pleasure at seeing my request being low as the number of requesters bunched up behind me. Winning!!!
My queue inched up to two dozen, thirty, then three dozen requests. I was getting daily emails from the library letting me know that a book I requested was ready for me to pick up. I was juggling books: which ones did I have to read first because others had requested them, meaning they could not be renewed? Those could not be put aside for too long. Some books I had at home waiting to read, but I didn’t have time with all the other pressing titles demanding my attention. I would let books sit for three weeks, and then renew them online without ever cracking their covers. Sometimes the three week cycle would pass twice before I decided that enough was enough and I would have to read them before the third renewal had passed.
And yes, sometimes the time burden was too great, and I had to return books that I hadn’t read. I started a list of those books, and re-requested them, keeping track of if they had a long queue, starting to really plan out a strategy for which books I could wait on and which I needed for more instant gratification.
At one time the pressure of having so many books at home demanding to be read, sitting there accusing me of neglecting them was so great, I turned them all back in, every one of them (after carefully jotting down their names and authors so I could request them again – I needed my safety net!). It was actually surprising how many of them didn’t seem quite so urgent after they were no longer languishing in my “to be read” pile, and I have to admit, I felt a great weight rise off my shoulders. But it wasn’t very long – probably no more than a day – before I had more ready to be picked up, and I never, ever stopped placing even more requests.
Now my queue is over 40 books long. I just picked up two more today, two books that I am so excited to read, I literally do not know which one to start first. (“But I took two back I had finished!” I can plaintively whine to no one in particular.) I have two more library books I have read, but hope to write up a review before taking them back to Hosmer (the name of my local library). I have three other library books sitting beside me that I need to read – and want to read – as well, but not as desperately as I do the ones I picked up today, so they will have to wait. Unfortunately, none of them are renewable, so I have my work cut out for me.
Oh, and look – I have two more in transit. They should be at Hosmer in a day or two.
But you know what? It’s a wonderful doom to be living under.
I realize – believe me, I truly realize – how many people would love to be able to stagger under my addiction. I am so lucky that at this time in my life I have the means and the time to be able to sit and read, and contemplate reading, so many books, day in and day out. I am literally living a dream, my dream. And being able to write reviews of so many of the wonderful, incredible, absolutely fantastic books that my library makes it possible for me to devour? Paradise. Sure, I’ve had to make some pretty harsh sacrifices – and I don’t want to make it sound like the only factor in my having so much time to read is that I want to – but my “silver lining” has truly turned out to be a blessing.
This addiction of mine? I’m going to ride it as long as I can. Right now, I don’t want to be cured. I will fight any intervention. I refuse to be ashamed. I embrace it. I glory in it. While I can. While I can.
And now, my friends, I’ve gone babbling on far too long. Now it’s time to read. After all, these books can’t be renewed, and the clock is ticking.