Today’s guest post comes from Lindsay Denton, who lives in San Antonio, TX where she works full-time as a speech-language pathologist.  Her husband, Jay, graduates from dental school this summer.  When she’s not working or holed up somewhere with a book, you can find her snapping photos, doing something musical, trying (and failing) to organize her home, baking and eating sweets, or writing.  She blogs at mylifeintune.blogspot.com.

One of my favorite memories from when my husband, Jay, and I were on our honeymoon is of the two of us lounging on hammocks by the ocean reading a novel to each other. At the time, I remember thinking to myself, “What a fun tradition this will be!” I made tentative mental lists of all the books we would read aloud together. I envisioned the two of us, fifty years down the road, cuddled up on the couch in front of a fire as we read, my plans filmed in the rosy tints of honeymoon bliss.

Ha.

I have always loved books. Before I was literate, my parents would tirelessly read me stacks upon stacks of them. When I could string letters together into words on my own, I began to devour books (in a figurative sense, unlike my younger sister Sara, who has always been more of a literalist). In second grade, I would check out ten Nancy Drew books from the library and have them all finished less than a week later. This had less to do with being a fast reader than it did with the simple fact that I could not pry my nose out of a book to save my life (or get my chores done, or play with friends, or do my homework…).

I wish I could say that time has mellowed me and I can now ration out an interesting book over a week or two, but alas, such is not the case. I once hid in the bathroom for hours with one of the Work and the Glory books, reading through the steam as I let the shower run into an empty tub. I read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy during finals week in college—you can probably guess how my grades turned out that semester. More recently than I care to admit, I camped on the couch in my pajamas with a nest of tissues, homemade chocolate truffles, blankets, and a stack of books gathered around me; I growled when Jay came near, completely flaked on my church and academic responsibilities, didn’t shower for a full three days, and poured myself a bowl of cereal when I remembered to eat. And it was just today that I read the new Cassandra Clare book at red lights on my way to work (and only got honked at twice).

Unfortunately, this aspect of my character does not generally apply to “good” books (i.e. non-fiction, self-improvement, educational, spiritual, or most “classic” literature), the Brussels sprouts and Metamucil of the book family. On the occasions I do read a “classic” or a biography, I tote it around proudly, subtly flashing the cover at people I think might be impressed. My true literary diet, however, consists of the written equivalent of chocolate cake and bon bons—mass amounts of sugar and refined carbohydrates—with an occasional dose of printed heroin (Dan Brown comes to mind). I often hide these books in my purse and secretly dread being asked what I’m reading: how do you retain credibility once a room of co-workers finds out the book you’re devouring with your lunch is a kids’ fantasy novel? (It was Fablehaven, and it was worth it.)

Jay and I have finished one or two books together since our honeymoon nearly three years ago. Jay and I have also started over ten books together since our honeymoon. I wish I could say that we didn’t finish the books together because we just got too busy or because Jay was a stinker and would read with a flashlight under the covers after I fell asleep. I wish I could say that.

My name is Lindsay, and I am a compulsive reader.

33 Comments

  1. Sage

    June 12, 2011

    Lindsay! Great post. I’m cracking up! I read The Work and the Glory series in about a week while neglecting my baby and husband.

    I used to imagine lying in bed reading next to my husband (turns out he doesn’t care much for fiction). Although we did both start strong on the Wheel of Time series, me reading the 1000 page books at about 2 day each. He gave up about book 4 or 5.

    I once sat on the edge of the tub til 4 in the morning laughing over a Sophie Kinsella novel (The Undomestic Goddess).

    But now, now that I have five kids (one of those is a girl with similar tendencies to read more than do), I’ve had to become more responsible. If it weren’t for my book group I might never (well not as much) read for pleasure.

    Thanks for the images of flashing or hiding book covers! We readers are a funny group!

  2. Peyton

    June 12, 2011

    Oh, a woman after my own heart! I love you! Before my daughter was born, I could totally have written this. I’m only slightly ….. Better (?) now. But I still get the cravings really hard and strong. And frequent. Sigh (I should really finish that romance novel before she wakes up)

  3. Dave

    June 12, 2011

    Thank you, Lindsay — I now feel much better about my comparatively moderate reading habits. For the red light problem, try CD books.

  4. traci

    June 12, 2011

    I love and had to laugh about the reading on the honeymoon. WE read to each other while we were dating, but somewhere lost it. It was soooo my favorite.

    I am fortunate to have a husband who does not think it is a waste of time to spend the day reading. Never imagined that could be found. We read together, separately, most nights (no TV) and even weekends. Our ‘day trips’ are often to the bookstore, where we sit and read. Or to the library, where we sit and read for a couple hours on weekends in the winter to “get out”. E readers have been great for us and wee often carry them where ever and can find grand snippets in life where we have time to read.

    We do 3 book clubs together and then discuss with each other 1st. This kind of replaces the reading outloud ( but not completely for me – 😉 ).

    So wonderful to hear of other readers! Thank you!

  5. Kay

    June 12, 2011

    ‘My name is Lindsay, and I am a compulsive reader.’

    Surely, this is normal!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What is a life without books anyway, and who says that cleaning and paying attention to your family is necessary every day. Reading is essential to sanity. Did you know that it has been proved that if you read some poetry every day you are less likely to suffer from depression too. Benefits are all around us, the more you read the happier you will be and therefore will have a happier family too.

    Do I worry I read too much? No. What is wrong in reading a book a day?

  6. Lora Dawn

    June 12, 2011

    This made me laugh!
    And boy-o-boy am I with you, sista’!

  7. Lindsay

    June 12, 2011

    Thanks for your comments! It’s nice to know I’m not alone.

    And, Kay, your comments are already helping me justify! While taking things to excesses isn’t advisable, taking time for ourselves is certainly important for our own well-being (and sanity!).

  8. Kerri

    June 12, 2011

    I have a bit of an all-or-nothing tendency in my relationship with reading. I do NOT do well reading a few pages a day. I can only do that with a book I don’t care about much. And I care about most books I start. In college, I often had to put myself on a reading fast so that I could practice enough and study enough. If I walked past the fiction books in the library, I had to look the other way or next thing I knew, it would be three in the morning and I’d be finishing a book and beating myself up about all the other things I SHOULD have done.

    I wish I could be more moderate in most things.

    I, too, have read until the wee hours of the morning on the floor of the bathroom (INTENDING to go to bed after I finished brushing my teeth while reading), at red lights (shame) and while I should have been doing many many many other important tasks.

    Lately, though, I’ve done better. Kind of. There WAS that night two weeks ago that I finished at 3 am. Sigh. I guess I’ll never fully recover from my addiction.

    And did I mention my library fines? No? Let’s just pretend I didn’t bring them up.

  9. Hannah

    June 12, 2011

    This is fabulous!

    Maybe you should consider getting an e-Reader like a Kindle or Nook so you can more easily cover up your compulsive reading habits! I know I love mine. 🙂

  10. ShelliRae

    June 12, 2011

    My name is Shelli, and I am a compulsive reader.
    This was like a snapshot of my life. But forward ten years and I read in the car while my kids are at piano lessons, at the school, and frequently until two or three in the morning. When the last Harry Potter came out I was immobilized while I plowed through a book a day in preparation. And now I have at least two little readers who keep me company. My 11 year old daughter sneaks into my room after everyone is asleep to share my nightlight.

    It is wonderful.

  11. Rosalyn

    June 12, 2011

    I love this–like many of the others, I could have written this (or something very like it). I moderate my habits now because of my kids, although I still often read at least a book or two a week (and the running joke in our family is that when my nose is in a book I’m pretty much oblivious to the world: I still get teased for the time when I was reading at the dinner table, my dad got after me because I needed to put my dishes away, and I was so flustered that I put the dishes in the fridge . . .).

    While I do value good literature and classics, there’s also a lot to be said for books that make us laugh, that lighten our load, or just plain entertain us. I wish we didn’t feel the need to apologize so much for the kind of things we like to read!

  12. Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury

    June 12, 2011

    I have always been a compulsive reader–cereal boxes if nonthing else is available sort of thing.

    I have to share one of the ways I knew I had married the right man. Shortly after we married, I was reading Allen Drury’s ADVISE AND CONSENT in the bedroom while my husband was studying for school in the living room. I got to the part that I had heard about where the senator from Utah commits suicide. Even though I knew it was coming, it made me cry, and I went in to tell my husband about it.

    Instead of thinking I was silly for crying over a character in a book, he said, “That must be a really good book to have made you cry like that.” And I knew I had a keeper. We’ve been married over 35 years, and he is still wonderful.

  13. April

    June 12, 2011

    My husband read Harry Potter to me while I was pregnant and I have been a compulsive reader ever since!

  14. Melissa (Book Nut)

    June 12, 2011

    LOL! There is nothing to be ashamed at neglecting life for a book. And the “good” books are overrated: give me a good story, compelling characters, and a fun plot over a Dickens book any day. And that’s a pretty good stack o’ books you’ve got in the photo there.

  15. Jeannie

    June 12, 2011

    Me too!!! On everything said!! Especally the library fines..I just tell myself I am donating to a good cause. I just ordered an Ipad, and can’t wait for the Kindle App. My kids can raise themselves..they are, after all 3 and 7…….hehehe

  16. Laura: The Sushi Snob

    June 12, 2011

    My parents read to us from a very young age. I wouldn’t be surprised if they read to us when we were newborns! With that said, not one of us ever had trouble learning to read.

    And with that said, my mom used to spend a fortune at the bookstore. There was one time she was on the phone with the realtor who was selling our old house, and she complained, “Oh, I’m about to spend a fortune on books for my kids!” The realtor replied, “Be glad you’re spending a fortune on BOOKS!” She never complained again, except in jest.

    I love to read, and so does my husband. Sometimes our date nights are spent at our local library. I used to think it wouldn’t matter if my husband didn’t like reading or not, but now I realize how wonderful it is that he encourages me to read good books. He declares that he will start reading to our children in the womb 😉

  17. Paula

    June 12, 2011

    I’ve been a compulsive reader too. I’d rather read than watch TV. I read while I’m cooking dinner and I’ve burnt a few things doing it. I read cookbooks for fun. I read in the bathroom or we call it the reading room especially when the kids start knocking. “Mom are you coming out?” I read until the wee hours of the morning. I have several books lined up to read all the time.

    One day my husband asked how we got so many kids books. I told him, “The kids know I can’t resist buying them a book. They know that I’d get a book over a video game any day.” Before they know how to read, I can’t say no to that sweet little face looking up at me with a book in their hands. Funny that one of my kids first words has been “book.” Then they quickly learn the word “again.” I’ve memorized Dr. Seuss and I’ve been known to quote it randomly.

    I just can’t help myself when I see a book. It calls to me to pick it up and read it. I sympathize completely.

  18. Ana of the Nine Kids

    June 12, 2011

    My parents idea of a fun time (before kids) was to check out a stack of books from the library and then sit next to each other all day and read them and I grew up having to pound on bathroom doors to get my reading-addicted siblings to put their books down and let someone else have a turn. (Needless to say I am an addict too.) When I was pregnant with my first child I read Jim Trelease’s _The Read Aloud Handbook_ and loved it–it’s all about the importance of reading to children and has a great treasury of books at the back. My goal to raise prolific readers was solidified. We were so ambitious that we read Little House and the Hobbit to our first born during his baths–before he was even ONE. HA! (We TRIED reading him Frankenstein but even we had a hard time following it so we gave that up. We still laugh about that–but now we read picture books to our babies and save those other books until they are a tad older. :)) My husband (who is not a big reader himself but will read a book if I specially recommend it to him) laughs at me when I stay awake until 2:00 to finish the likes of Harry Potter. (When HE stayed awake that long to finish Fablehaven I had a HEY-Day.) There was one period during our marriage when we had the leisure to read aloud to one another (about 12 years ago) and we STILL talk about it with great fondness. We read Swiss Family Robinson and Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth and Around the World in 80 Days. Great times.

  19. Chibby

    June 12, 2011

    My name is Chibby, and I’m a book addict.
    My compulsive need to read will have me reading anything, if there is text, I’ll read it!
    One of my children is also a voracious reader, and I was so excited the first time I found him reading with a torch after lights out, that I phoned my parents to share the happy news! (Child 3 & 4 are still pre-readers) But child number 2 seems to have been very badly affected by my reading. I think her first full sentence was ‘stop reading mummy’ complete with pushing her little face in between my head and my book… Now as a 12 year old she is very reluctant to read. She never reads for pleasure, and reacts with derision if the idea is suggested. I’m afraid I’ve broken her 🙁

  20. Lindsay

    June 12, 2011

    I love this here is something about books and reading that bring back wonderful memories.

    Kerri, I empathize with your all-or-nothing approach to reading; for about three years I stopped reading novels entirely. I started up again a couple years ago, and now there’s no looking back.

    Rosalyn, I am trying to be better about “owning” my reading choices, especially when asked for a plot summary (cringe)–even the best book sounds pathetic when reduced to soundbytes.

    I’m glad to see there are others out there who have a weakness when it comes to buying books–my dream is to someday have a gorgeous library, and Jay and I already have quite the collection lining the walls of our one-bedroom apartment. We do have a Kindle, but I can’t stand to spend money on books I can’t put on my shelf after I read them. Does anyone else feel that way?

  21. Lindsay

    June 12, 2011

    Oops–not sure what happened to that first sentence! I meant to say that I love the comments, and there is something about books and reading that bring back wonderful memories.

  22. countryhungry

    June 12, 2011

    We are taking a cruise (first time alone since our first kid arrived over 3 years ago). and I am already getting my list of books to take with me. Poor husband 🙂

  23. Ana of the Nine Kids

    June 12, 2011

    Ditto on not having a physical book to put on my shelf! 🙂

  24. Kathie

    June 13, 2011

    “Before I was literate, my parents would tirelessly read me stacks upon stacks of them.”

    Lindsay, when your dad got to this sentence he spontaneously began reciting “The Bears’ Vacation”–you know, “Small Bear, Small Bear–don’t you go to far–I want to see you wherever you are!” and so on. And then he had this startling realization–that they always made the dad sound so stupid in those books! “Why did I read those to her?” he wondered.

    And, yes, we did read stacks and stacks of them–and loved every minute! Because–face it–we are compulsive readers, too…

    Love, Mom

  25. Jennifer

    June 13, 2011

    My name is Jennifer and I am a compulsive reader.

    I used to read while breastfeeding, at red lights, lunch hour, and deep into the night. I get annoyed when I’m interrupted and always think, “I’ll stop after the next chapter…”

    I’m also a book collector. I like to own every book of the series that I read. My husband gets me Barnes & Noble gift cards for every holiday.

    I’m with Lindsay about the Kindle thing. There are a few books that I bought for my iPad, but I love to have the actual book in my hand, to see them all lined up on the shelf. I probably own close to 1,000 books.

    I am so proud that my 6-year-old is such a great reader already. I’m excited to share my favorite books with her.

  26. Tiffany W.

    June 13, 2011

    I used to read while riding my bike. I never crashed, which was kind of a miracle. When the Harry Potter books came out, I had to set aside time to read it. I frankly admitted to my husband that I was planning neglecting our kids to finish the book. It took me a day (I’m a very fast reader) where the kids helped themselves to cereal and watched t.v. all day, but I got through it. My reading compulsion makes it really hard to function as a mother should, so I had to be more creative. These days, as I’ve mentioned a 100 times before, I listen to audiobooks on cassette and CD. I still get the reading kick, but I don’t neglect children, dishes, or mealtimes. Win/Win.

  27. Tiffany W.

    June 13, 2011

    I love my kindle. I just bought one because we are going to be moving abroad and a kindle is much easier to transport than hundreds of books.

  28. sar

    June 13, 2011

    One time I heard Jean Shepherd say that he got so desperate to read something while on a trip to Asia that he resorted to reading the bottom of his shoe while on a bus. While I’ve never gotten that desperate, I certainly know the feeling.

  29. Kammi

    June 13, 2011

    Hey, I’ve mastered running and reading at the same time, thanks to my kindle. I have to leave my novels at home when I go to school or work; it’s just too embarrassing to have to tell your professors, classmates, or supervisors that you’re reading a kids’ fantasy novel. (Ironically, I’m rereading Fablehaven right now.) Especially when they’re all legal professionals, and assume that you spend your spare time reading Supreme Court cases, or at worst that you resort to John Grisham novels.
    It’s a good thing that I didn’t know back in high school that we shared the same addiction. Curling up with a good, fluffy book is the one thing that would have enticed me to skip class–especially if a friend would have skipped with me. 🙂

  30. Heidi

    June 13, 2011

    I laughed out loud at your “brussel sprouts and metamucil” comment. That’s the only kind of books I ever read. People love to make comments about my penchant for non-fiction, and you have given me the perfect comeback. I love it–thanks!

  31. Stefanie Q

    June 14, 2011

    LOVE IT! Me too – and I’m not ashamed. I tell myself that I read fluff books because so much of the rest of my life is responsible, but in reality, I just love a fun book!

  32. Ruby

    June 16, 2011

    Love your comments, Lindsay, and all the responses from other reading addicts! My life story is reading. When growing up, I went to the county library every two weeks and checked out the maximum number of books and had them read in less than a week. I read while churning butter and shelling beans and whatever else I could get by with. As you know, I have books everywhere. There is something about the look and feel and smell of a book that can never be replaced by a non-book replacement. I am trying to replace buying books with going to the library but every now and then I need a bookstore trip. For all you addicts, I am 79 and still addicted to books, books, books. So don’t ever think of quitting.

  33. Sue

    June 17, 2011

    Me too.

    And I’m a binge-reader, too.

    Can’t help myself once I get started, so I abstain a few days and then binge again.

    😉

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