Telltale signs of a booklover

Top Ten Signs I’m a Book Lover

I’ve borrowed this meme from a few blogs who follow Top Ten Tuesday (though I don’t do so myself) because, I suppose, it’s a chance to talk about me again.

After all, it’s not a coincidence that the word meme has the first person singular twice over, surely?

Anyway, here are the telltale signs I’m a bibliomane,* not listed in any particular order. One or two signs seem to match up with the things listed by other bloggers, but I can’t help that — birds of a feather and all that!

Some of the great unread hide here
  1. I have many books on my shelves that I’ve yet to read. Contrary to what an in-law thought I didn’t buy them at a jumble sale as a job lot to decorate a wall, I actually chose each one personally, and may even be able to tell you when and where I bought it.
  2. True family members and friends know not to get me socks or ties, or even to chose a book they imagine I like: they’ll buy me book tokens or (whisper it) Amazon vouchers. They don’t buy me particular titles unless I’ve dropped heavy hints and, moreover, have indicated I’m prepared to wait for a specified time for them to appear. (To be honest, I’m too old and grumpy for anyone to want to buy me presents that I can get for myself.)
  3. When I go anywhere new to visit I ascertain where the bookshops are. New books or secondhand, I’m not proud, but I’m with Neil Gaiman on this: as a character opines in American Gods, “What I say is, a town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore, it knows it’s not foolin’ a soul.”
  4. Apropos of the previous sign, wherever I go on a holiday or trip I always pack a book or three as emergency supplies. If there’s a bookshop there then all’s well and good, I may not even have need of the supplies, but one can never be too cautious.
  5. I never disfigure a book with notes or markings, not even in pencil. Full stop. I have notebooks for notes; books are for reading. Don’t get me started: I’ve already dedicated a whole post to this chiefest of mortal sins.
  6. I’ll talk the hindlegs off the proverbial donkey about books I’ve read, yes, even till the blessed cows come home. And, if you’re similarly inclined, you’ll no doubt be ready to stay for the duration. Book lovers have a sixth sense for who else is one, so if you’re not be prepared for barely-concealed pity.
  7. And I don’t always enact the sixth sign face to face: these days we can find fellow bibliophiles, even bibliomanes, on social media — on Twitter, book-cataloguing sites like Goodreads and LibraryThing, and, of course, blogging. For my sins I seem to be following close on a hundred blogs (how did that happen?) and a good many of them are book-related.
  8. Another sign: I reread books. I know many readers don’t: there are so many books out there waiting to make our acquaintance. But I’m a book lover, books are like friends; you wouldn’t claim someone as a friend and then never speak to them again, would you? Rereading a book is like having a further conversation, and I always end up learning more, both about the book and about myself.
  9. Nearly there. If a book is like a friend then I don’t mind if they’re new to me alone or if they’re secondhand — or as some even say, pre-loved. Some secondhand book are so damaged — falling apart, pages missing or disfigured — that it’s nigh impossible to adopt them: they would need a professional to restore them, to make them whole — a veritable book doctor. But I’m happy to take on pre-owned books — they deserve respect, even if I’m prepared to pass them on to good home in my turn.
  10. And now to the last sign that I’m a booklover: I don’t lend books. There, I’ve said it. (I’ve actually said it before, and may say it again.) I’d rather pass them on than lend them, and frequently do. Now I’m not being a dog in the manger because, though I’ve lent out books with the best of intentions in the past, it has nearly always ended in tears. My tears. They either never come back, or they come back in tatters. I even took to writing my name inside them and then somebody actually offered to lend me back my own book. Another denied I had ever lent it in the first place, until I snaffled it back surreptitiously from their bookshelves. These friends certainly loved books, but not well enough to know where they came from (see sign number one).

Them’s me list. And that’s that. If you want any more you can write it yourself.

Seriously, let me know what you think!


* Bibliophile: someone who loves books. Bibliomane: someone who’s obsessed about books.

76 thoughts on “Telltale signs of a booklover

  1. I agree about the re-reading– I do too, and with most books, there is so much discovered on each read. My favourite example is Jane Eyre which seems to reveal something new every single time.

    And re lending, I didn’t like lending things but when I ended up doing so on a few occasions, even with my text books, it’s been bad–I had books from two EBs to a French dictionary which never came back, and one (text book) which came back with pencil markings–luckily not pen.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I hoped some of these would ring bells for readers, and it did! Having only recently read Jane Eyre for the first time, and that in great detail, I fear it may be some while before I return to it, yet I’ll never say never again for the precise reason you given.

      I have a collection of Carson McCullers short stories which I read a year or so ago, all except the first tale ‘The Ballad of the Sad Café’ which had markings, underlinings in different inks and symbols all over it and I’ve yet to force myself to tackle it. Perhaps soon, as I really rated two or so items in the book.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a fab Neil Gaiman quotation! I love bookish places with plenty of second-hand bookshops and venues for poetry-reading nights.

    Then there’s number four on your list – I love to read while travelling and generally take at least two books on holiday (a kindle helps when it comes to packing light!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a popular Gaiman quote with booklovers, for obvious reasons! And why I’m grateful there’s a bookshop still where I live — if it survives the present lockdown…

      I can’t manage a kindle (I have tried) so always pack ‘real’ books, however inconvenient, leaving space for any books I might acquire on the trip of course!

      I was a little confused by your blog moniker because author Isabel Greenberg (I reviewed her Brontë graphic novel recently) had isabelnecessary.com as her website, though it now directs to IsabelGreenberg.co.uk. Of course she spells her name differently…

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t bear cracked spines either, Annabel, but I didn’t have the option of a Top Eleven! I avoid placing an open paperback face down for that reason, always having a supply of attractive postcards and promotional bookmarks to hand to minimise damage! When it comes to choosing secondhand copies I’d almost do without a sought-after title than have it with a damaged spine with the possibility of loose or missing pages.

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    1. I wouldn’t be upset (I don’t think!) — wouldn’t it be boring if we all agreed on everything — but I’m interested in where we’d differ. Number 5, I suspect, am I right? 🙂

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    2. This is a perfect description and one I empathise with completely. It reads like the Ten Commandments for Book Lovers. Your number eight is particularly lovely. The idea of another conversation with an old friend is so fitting for the feeling when rereading an old favourite. Number ten is a relatively new one for me ever since I ‘lent’ a book to a friend only for her to ‘give’ it to her mother!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I like the idea of this being like Ten Commandments, though imagine if Moses came down from Sinai with these and saw the Israelites breaking every one of these! Would he throw down and break his Tablet in anger?!

        I hope you got your lent book back from your friend’s mother! Perhaps a date stamp and a fine would solve this kind of ‘crime’ in future?!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not surprised you don’t reread very often, Cathy, what with the number of worthy new titles that come your way and even with your backlog steadily reducing. But I’m glad the rest resonates!

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    1. Most of the fiction shown in the colour photo I’ve acquired over the last half-dozen years or so and I’ve read at least once. Much of the non-fiction is over ten years, though I’ve read bits of them all and often use them as reference. How do I feel if I pick one out? Either grateful I hung on to them, despite two moves since the start of the millennium, or weighing them in my hand considering if they need to take up space because they’ve outlived their helpfulness.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Interesting–I have some non-fiction from 30 years ago and when I reach for one, or even look at it on the shelf, I have a sadness about the things I’ve never gotten to. After the wave of sadness verging on melancholy…the other side of my brain asks, was it really so important? That’s my 2bits. It was fun to read that post.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. You’re so right about not lending books but “passing them on.” I regard that as a victory, that someone wants to read something I’ve read. Since I have more regard for the words on the page than the edition I will usually pass something on without demur or delay, and have learned to keep an extra copy of a book that I’m not willing to pass on (perhaps because it’s autographed to me or an edition I had to search especially hard to find).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I sometimes swap a better edition for one past its best (say an annotated classic for a cheap issue) but like you may hang on to a copy for practical or sentimental reasons. But I definitely would rather give away than lend: mostly to charity shops (thrift stores I think you’d call them, Jeanne), occasionally to family but more likely to others in the creative writing class I’ve attended for the last five years — readers who are likely to appreciate them!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Two kinds of shops I love to browse in the most – bookshops and garden centres! So many new friends can be found in both.

    I’m with you on lending books. I have done it but it’s always ended badly.

    I ‘lent’ a copy of Hilary Mantell’s Beyond Black to a friend. A few weeks later she told me she’d ‘lent’ it to a friend of hers because ‘that’s what books are for, right?’ I never got the book back. And I really enjoyed that book. Really. I might never have reread it, but I think I might have done because I REALLY LIKED THAT BOOK! Forgive me if I’ve told you that before, Chris – the incident probably occurred ten years or so ago, yet it still makes me angry.

    Yours is a fine list of bookish signs, not that any of use familiar with this blog need to read them to know – you are the King of Bibliomanes 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Beyond Black is the only Mantel I’ve read to date, and I did enjoy it — I can see it as your kind of book! — but unfortunately I passed on my copy ages ago or you’d be welcome to it! It took me a long time to learn not to lend — a Russian SF novel (called, I think, Sanikov Island) that my father got me in Shanghai in the 1960s was ‘borrowed’ by a classmate at school, and I never got it back! As with you it still riles me, though it shouldn’t nearly six decades later.

      Garden centres are lovely to wander round, it’s true, though I leave it to the better half to purchase what needed to keep our patch in order — I’d never know where to start!

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      1. As you say, these scars run deep and last a long time! Garden centres are an absolute joy for me but then I probably buy more plants than I do books. What’s a plant obsessive called, then, Chris?

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh yes, those are some good ones. I have finally learned not to lend books out (looking at you, Phil). I’ll happily give a book away, but then I know it’s not coming back, so I don’t do it with books I need to keep. And what fun would always reading new books be? Nope, re-reading is indeed like talking with an old friend and discovering more.

    I’ve been having a hard time finding blogging time, but I might steal this one anyway. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Steal away, Jean, especially as it’s not my meme to steal! I’d happily read what you’d have to say. 😊 And I absolutely concur with treating books as you would old friends.

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    1. Hah! I always thought the chorus was a load of hokum, but have you seen the verse in some versions of the song? I can’t believe that anybody with any kind of sensibility would sing these words:

      “The Red man was pressed from this part of the west,
      He’s likely no more to return,
      To the banks of the Red River where seldom if ever
      Their flickering campfires burn.”

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I can relate to pretty much every one of these, except re-reading. Would love to do it but have too many unread books and too many few years left in which to get to them.

    I’ll substitute with a travel related one. Whenever I take a flight I will have at least two books in my cabin bag plus an IPad loaded with Kindle books. One book is too risky because what if I should find I don’t like it Or I finish it but there are hours left . I can’t possibly imagine anything worse 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I suppose I hoard — there, I’ve said it — books because they’re there for rereading, and it’s nearly always a case of the fiction in particular being like a new title. But I can appreciate the lure of the new when we know our lifespans will never get longer!

      Interesting your choice of two physical books when you travel; I take a current novel plus, usually, a non-fiction book or classic for contrast or as a backup should I finish the novel or get bored by it. By then, I may well have already found that bookshop in that new location…

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  7. I share many of your signs, with – get ready to faint – the possible exception of the bookshop related ones. Don’t get me wrong – I like bookshops, but they’re not an essential for me, and i never go to bookshops when I’m on holiday. I’m afraid I’m addicted to Amazon for my book-splurges, either e- or paper. I totally agree about the sin – one might say, crime – of writing in books, though, so I do hope we can still be friends… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do like it that so much overlaps among us in this respect but also that there are differences! You’re such a voracious reader that I don’t censure you for your Amazon addiction, even as I admit to being unable to get on with ereaders! (And audiobooks too, but that’s another story…)

      And yes, we can still be friends, you’re not all bad 😁

      Liked by 1 person

  8. This was a wonderful entertaining post. I nodded to all but the writing. Sorry to hear that it’s the chiefest of sins. Not on all books, but I like to underline and annotate. In my defense, it’s just pencil and soft impressions that can be easily erased.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re forgiven, Silvia, if it’s just soft pencil marks you’re creating! It’s the ink marks in different colours, and copious highlighting, and underlining of whole pages that gets to me: I can’t follow the sense of the text for wondering what the annotator meant by the various markings. Here’s an example of what I mean — https://wp.me/s2oNj1-carson — and I’m sure you’re not like this, Silvia! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Painful to watch. It’s a crime. I love that book btw. I also add pieces of paper to mark places, to not do violence to the book. It’s just that I need to mark the places with the quotes or parts that made me think, etc.

        I even erase the pencil and repeat the underline if it was crooked.

        I can’t bear myself to make an ink mark on a book. Ouch.

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  9. I’m with you on not writing in books however I do have a fascination with historical marginalia. I did some work in literary archives a few years back and I loved finding and deciphering it. I also hate lending books. I broke this rule last year to lend one to a colleague and fellow bookworm. I thought she’d look after it. She did not. I really want to buy a fresh copy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Now, historical marginalia is absolutely fine, especially that done in illuminated manuscripts by scribes in convents and monasteries! Dark Age and later medieval codices were full of these glosses, weren’t they, from which proper scholars (not me!) derive a clearer idea about chronology, beliefs and additional facts.

      I let our creative writing tutor borrow two books of essays on science fiction, and she was due to return them to me on the day that the classes were cancelled as beong ‘non-essential’! I’m sure I’ll get them back but who knows when it will be? Sorry to hear of your colleague’s disrespect for your book, not a pleasant experience.

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  10. piotrek

    Yes to all, but the last one… I’m usually willing to lend to a trustworthy friend, but I keep track and make sure they now I remember. I think I only lost a book that way once, when someone moved far away and we lost contact.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Trustworthy friends are worth their weight in . . . books, aren’t they?! I’m rubbish with keeping track of things lent out, perhaps I’m too trusting, but hey, with lockdown we’re saved from all that particular angst — just all those other niggling ones.

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      1. piotrek

        Introverts, finally, have it better 😉 we were waiting our entire lives for such a crisis…my girlfriend is suspicious I’m actually happy we can’t go anywhere, and to a degree she’s right, although I wish they hadn’t closed the woods for general public…

        Liked by 1 person

        1. We do, we do have it better!

          I have to admit, living now in a national park, that we have a view over mountains and fields and a river valley to enjoy every day, and though footpaths through it are closed we can access a canal towpath and wander through quiet lanes for our allotted daily hour’s exercise.

          I feel for the many however who have their Easter weekend holiday coming up but are forbidden to go away.

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  11. Ha ha! This takes me back. Before kids, my favorite date with Bo would be to visit used book stores, a terrific treasure hunt every time! I do wish relatives would just get me the gift cards, too, rather than guess what they think I’ll read. If they’re right, I likely have it, and if they’re wrong…well, now it just sits there, sad and depressing because *I* have no clue who’d read something like that…

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    1. Your comments about gift cards and relatives ring so true, Jean … *sigh* Still, I hope the time will come when you two have the opportunity to do the rounds of used bookstores again — if they are still around after all this is over.

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        1. Frankly I think there will be much more of this to come, Jean: your glorious leader as well as our tousled-headed buffoon have so tardily organised things after so many mixed messages (I’m being charitable here) that even the estimates of a year before normality returns are looking rather optimistic. If I wasn’t so angry I’d be frightened, so — anger will sustain me for some while longer.

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          1. (sigh) Very true. It is…it is so very frustrating. Of all the articles, though, that hurt, are the articles about how special needs children are utterly lost. Online education is NOT a one-size-fits-all system, especially for those who need, NEED that in-person help. I read an editorial somewhere about at least working to re-open classrooms for the sake of the special needs students, but I have a feeling it won’t happen.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. It’s a difficult situation: teachers are dying in the UK too (they’re not immune of course) but some, many, parents will be at their wit’s end naturally not having that specialist support. I feel for you all, I really do.

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  12. I do mark my books – and when I saw Keats’ bible and all his annotations I felt very at home! but I would never turn over a corner or break the spine or anything like that. And as for lending books, on the odd occasion it’s happened I remember who I’ve lent too and jolly well get it back, and I want my copy, not to be palmed off with a different one. . .

    Books are so personal aren’t they which is funny when you think how many copies there are of the same title?!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s that personal aspect that’s key here, isn’t it? If you’re talking about a unique copy of a classic then marking it is like using a permanent marker on, I don’t know, Van Gogh’s sunflowers I suppose. But if it’s a mass-produced object, bought legitimately by you, you can do what you like with it — for example annotating it, obviously — unless you’re someone famous like Keats or Elizabeth I, in which case your doodles give it an additional value!

      And you’re right about getting your own copy back after lending. I had a particular recording of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas which I lent out many years ago, but the LP that came back was with different artists performing which I didn’t enjoy at all — mine had personal memories and reflected my tastes. So I’m with you on that!

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      1. I think that’s terrible, did they own up (not that that makes it ok) or just fob you off with a different recording thinking you wouldn’t know – I’m a bit shocked!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh, she had some concocted story about replacing the record because of damage to my original — it was teenage student and I sort of forgave her the transparent subterfuge in my mind because it was a rather enjoyable performance which she’d purloined. But I learnt my lesson, didn’t lend out any more personal recordings after that!

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  13. Ok, love and agree with all of these, except number 5. I don’t do this with all of my books, but if it’s for a class, I colour in sections and make notes everywhere. Sorry! On the credit side, that usually means I’ll read and reread them until they literally disintegrate, so no one else has to be distracted.
    And, I’m so nosy that sometimes I will buy a book because it has notes scribbled in the margins.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I understand that certain books become working materials when you’re teaching, and that’s fair enough — so long as if, should you end up still loving the text, you have a spare pristine copy for your own enjoyment! If you have fallen out of love with it, we’ll, too bad! As for owning an annotated copy myself, it depends on who annotated, what they wrote, the associations…

      Liked by 1 person

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