Of all the addictions a person could have, perhaps a reading addiction is the safest and more helpful. Most writers have joked about being addicted to books, many others to the simple act of buying books. The finest contemporary writer on cats and nature, Tom Cox, wryly jokes about how one day, he expects to be discovered starving to death behind a wall of books.
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But how do you know if you are one too? Here are seven signs of a reading addict – all to be taken with generous helpings of salt.
Your wish-lists comprise of books
Birthdays, anniversaries, a good academic performance – all of these are occasions when you received gifts. Most people want some fancy clothes, a spanking new gadget or an expensive dinner. Others want something simple but sweet like chocolates or flowers. Not you. You want books. Novels. Graphic novels. Books about books. It doesn’t matter much, as long as it is a book. If it is a book by your favourite author or in your favourite genre, you are ready to marry the person giving you the gift.
You’re running out of space for more books
Other people have a bookshelf. You have three. And you keep books in your cupboard, stuffing your clothes all into one drawer. Your shoes lie exposed to the elements because the beautiful hand-crafted shoe-cupboard your mother bought from Dilli Haat has been reassigned to keep your books. They crowd your study table, are peeking out from under your bed and drop out from overhead closets.
Your best friends are fictional characters
Pop-stars. Movie actors. Cricketers. Football players. Most people want to meet and spend time with them, enter contests for a chance to do so. Not you. You wish you could have breakfast with Tyrion Lannister, lunch with Jane Eyre and dinner with Scarlett O’Hara. These characters are more real than the people around you, and you would rather be lost in their world than living in your own. Yes, Westeros is violent, Victorian England was repressive and Civil War-era America was a massive mess, but it’s still more interesting that the twenty-first century world you live in.
You’re the person people seek out for book recommendations
Among your friends, you are the one people approach for advice on books. What to read? How is the latest novel from Bhagat / Dutta / Sparks? Which book will impress your classmate’s girlfriend best? Where do you get the best deals on Hellblazer comics? Is it worth spending a thousand rupees on A World of Ice and Fire? You are the go-to person for anything books-related, and that is because you know them better than you know anyone else.
You’re always changing the topic to your favourite books
People avoid discussing books in your presence, knowing you will monopolise the conversation. But you’re no ordinary addict. You’re a book addict, and that means you can bring any conversation around to your favourite book in three deft moves. Whether that girl’s jealous boyfriend makes you go on at length about Othello or calling a politician as ‘Hitler’ makes you wax eloquent on the three different biographies you’ve read about the Fuhrer, people have come to know – and fear – your ability to make any conversation about books.
Books can give you incredible mental highs and lows
Unlike your friends, academic results don’t affect you much. Getting a promotion this year or next year is much the same to you, especially since a promotion would mean having less time for reading. Relationships come and go, it’s nice to have a boyfriend or girlfriend, but it’s not something you care much about. But nothing depressed you as much as reading the last chapter but one of Tess of the D’urbervilles and your happiest moment was when Sirius Black escaped on the Hippogriff Buckbeak. Those emotions course through your veins like no others – because you, my friend, are a book addict.
You would never burn a book
It does not matter if you loved it or hated, whether it was something you agreed with or disagreed with, whether the book expounded a philosophy you subscribe to or not. Your firmly believe that a book embodies thoughts and hence must be preserved, as well as that burning of books is an act of great evil. Like pouring alcohol down a drain or setting fire to a stash of drugs, many people seek to burn books, seeing the ideas contained therein to be just as dangerous as the alcohol and drugs. But you, the brave reading addict, would stand up to this poverty of thought and insist that a book is an idea, and deserves to be contested, never destroyed.
If you find that all these apply to you – well, congratulations, you are a reading addict! Just stay away from bigots and extremists of any persuasion (a difficult task these days) and you should be all right.