So you’ve seen that meme. It’s been showing up for years. You know the one. It’s just a screenshot from tumblr, but it’s made its way across the various social media platforms and you’ve seen it twenty thousand times.
And maybe, at some point, you’ve seen that I’ve liked said meme.
I like a lot of memes. Liking is caring, whether it’s a thumbs up, a double tap, or a press and hold.
It does not, however, mean that I want that shit to be enacted upon me.
Please don’t spring a bookstore trip on me. Not as a date, not as an adventure, not as a last-minute hang.
I love books. I love bookstores. I think they’re great.
I like to decide when I’m going.
I know I sit in a place of privilege when it comes to books — I buy my own and I have a problem. Like…a serious problem. According to my Libib account, I have 614 books scanned into my “physical-to-read-shelf” library. I might be behind on moving or removing some titles, but not by much. My Kindle library boasts 2145 unread books (and eARCs). I don’t even know how many physical ARCs I have, because I can’t scan them into Libib and I gave up on keeping a spreadsheet sometime in 2018. And my Goodreads “want-to-read” shelf? I can’t keep it below 4500 books. I don’t need any more books, but I continue to buy them for myself, because I just. Can’t. Stop. I might go long periods where I don’t even read anything I own, instead adding things to my library holds list and falling under a pile when they all decide to come in at once.
And then I realize I have been ridiculous and pick up one thing. Just one thing! That I own. And the cycle begins again. I just went on two separate trips to the Barnes and Noble less than a mile away from my house — the first trip was for “research” and the second because I forgot to get something while I was there the last time. And we know when you “forget” you end up remembering another five things you were going to get.
So let’s review:
4732. (And climbing.)
Arbitrary numbers to you, a point of anxiety for me.
Don’t get me wrong! If you say “hey do you want to visit [insert local or used bookstore or even B-word bookstore]” I will probably say yes. Because I can’t help myself. Or I might think of the number of trips I’ve made to one in the past month, compare it to how much money I still need to spend on food for the rest of the month, and then I’ll say yes. But I might find myself wandering said bookstore for hours, lost in decision. Because I might be thinking of something I’d intended to buy (I have multiple lists around specifically about what I should look for next time I’m in a bookstore). Or I might just be arbitrarily looking around, at which point, once the seal is broken…yeah, there’s a reason I have to look at how much food I need to buy.
At one point, anytime a friend wanted to go to a specific indie bookstore, I would just buy notebooks.
(I have too many of those, too, but it’s not as noticeable.)
But Jess, you might say — what if someone wants to buy the books for you?
Then I would say — don’t say shit like that! People can hear you!
I have horrendous stage fright when it comes to someone taking me somewhere and saying “get what you want; I’ll pay.” I’m that person who looks up a menu for a new restaurant, or makes sure I know exactly where I’m going if I’m heading to a new shop or an area where I need to park. And in bookstores — that freezing I mentioned before? Tenfold.
What are book? Author names? How does the alphabet go? Where’s the nonfiction section?
Don’t think it’ll be fun to go to a place where we’ll be surrounded by the thing I love but which I literally cannot approach without a strategic process, especially if I’m going to be spending someone else’s money. I am not a Supermarket Sweep kind of person at the bookstore, even with carte blanche. I have to be meticulous lest I come home with something I absolutely did not intend to get and definitely do not want. I have to do enough weeding with my own collection (how do you think I got it down to 607?). There’s no need to add a pile of books that will sit until I decide to take them to my local Used.
So yeah, I love books. A little too much. And I’ll go to a bookstore when I damn well please.
(I once was talking to a friend at a wedding, who was telling a story in which someone said “I just want to live to read all the books I own.” I think about that statement a lot.
I’m not going to make it.)
Therefore: please, please, for the love of god: buy me something that can be consumed immediately. I’ll drink it, I’ll eat it, I’ll watch it. But I will not — not — put it on my shelf.