My name is Keely, and I have a problem.

Now, I’ve already shared with you the anxiety that hits me when I restock the library from the store-room. Now imagine this: I’m sitting behind the counter at the library talking about bookstores with my friend Ivy, who is now responsible for buying books at the Pheonix shop at Nepenthe, when in come the delivery women for BOTH UPS and FedEx. They BOTH have incoming book orders for me. Seven entire boxes of books walked into the store today. We are over run with beautiful new books. Some are perennial favorites (Your Brain on Music), some are new to the library (Penguin Great Ideas series copy of John Ruskin’s On Life and Art), and some were a much needed restock (we just can’t recommend The Colossus of Maroussi highly enough). I was again struck with the all-too-familiar feeling of “Oh god. I’ll never get all these books read.” I had to put my credit card away to keep from buying The Omnivore’s Dilemma; I’ll buy it when I don’t have the next four books I’m going to read planned out!

I’m not sharing this to entice you to buy these books (if you buy them, I’ll have to wait even longer to pick them up myself), but instead to hopefully find some common ground with the rest of the population of People With A Problem. My name is Keely and I can’t leave books in bookstores. I don’t think I’m alone.

I remember the first summer that I interned at the library, or maybe it was the second, but either way I was flying back to Massachusetts to get back to the work of getting an art history degree. To make it clear: I was leaving my life at a bookstore to go to study intensely for a semester, and I had been given a copy of Master and Margarita from Magnus for the plane ride home. I didn’t need any more books. Not for the plane ride, not for my overstuffed dorm room, and certainly not for the storage boxes at my parent’s houses (I think I had books in four states at that point).

I had a layover in Minneapolis/St. Paul, which is such a layover hub for cross-country flights that it has turned into a shopping mall complete with several different bookstores. I naturally made my way to the largest, probably a subset of Borders, and proceeded to buy WAY more books than fit in my carryon luggage. I am lucky they let me on the plane, to be quite honest. I am also lucky that I didn’t send myself immediately into the poor house – airports use the fact that they have a captive audience to mark books above their usual price. I immediately called my mother and exclaimed that “I HAVE A PROBLEM.” I guess it’s the first step. My mother, who knows me better than does anyone else, was not surprised and only mildly disappointed in my lack of self-control. To prove that I come by this problem honestly, her sentiments moved immediately from this mild distress to complete, unabashed curiosity about what books I had gotten. I’m surprised she didn’t ask me to describe the font type of each copy. This is how I know I am not alone. There’s at least one other person who shares my “problem.”

However, I am slowly learning the self-control that I need to not over stuff my shelves. I live in a rented trailer, there is certainly not enough room to develop a library. Each time I finish a book I consider whether or not it is going to be part of my permanent collection. Most of the time it is not – I’m generally only holding on to particularly beautiful older books and any title by John Steinbeck (go ahead and send me anything that falls in that category: to that I say self-control be damned!). I have to have high standards for books I’m going to be attached to forever – I’m fresh out of college and have to consider whether or not I’ll want to move these books from place to place for the rest of my life. As I finish each book I bring it into work and put it on the used bookshelf for the benefit of the guests to the library. So far I’ve contributed Fahrenheit 451, Julie and Julia (you can probably skip that one, frankly), Angels and Demons (Dan Brown is a fellow New Hampshireite), Marley and Me (Alright, I’ve been reading a lot of fluff lately), Woebegon Boy by Garrison Keilor, and Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. If you’re interested in those, my beat-to-shit copies are ready for you to pick up for a bargain price. And you can feel free to ask me how I dis/liked them. (as for food stuff, pick up Kitchen Confidential, pass up Julie and Julia, if you like fluffy best sellers, Marley and Me will do as well as Angels and Demons, and if you like dry midwestern wit or the musings of someone who, like Miller, is always merry and bright, please please please read Woebegon Boy).

Is it any wonder I work in a place so teeming with books that we've hung them from the ceiling?!  (Photo by my wonderful friend Katherine Mackenzie)

Is it any wonder I work in a place so teeming with books that we've hung them from the ceiling?! (Photo by my wonderful friend Katherine Mackenzie)

books, books, and more books,



3 responses to “My name is Keely, and I have a problem.

  1. There is no such thing as “fluff” when talking of books. There are deep thinking books, there are factual books, there are fictional books, there are technical books. But fluff? No, ma’am. I consider those to be recreational books, and every one of us needs a bit of recreation in their life. It’s what makes us well rounded. And, well read! 😉

  2. I had a layover in the Milwaukee airport a few years ago and found that there is a used book store there. It is a real used book store with some collectors items, probably the only used book store in an airport in the U.S. I had a great time browsing. but didn’t have any more room in my carry on luggage.

  3. Problem? This is not a problem, dear. It’s a perfectly normal, intellectually acceptable adaptation and only serves to document your obviously enriched childhood and superior genotype. Oh. And don’t forget to read everything by Pat Conroy. Love you, baby!

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