confessions of a book addict

The evidence of my addiction sits all around me. On the bedside table, used and creased. Piles on the floor, devoured and tossed. Even under my cheek, skin creased with proof of overconsumption.  I must have drifted into unconsciousness and let my guilty pleasure land on the pillow.

 I wake, head foggy from too little sleep, the sun making me squint. Rolling over and enjoying my few moments of ignorance before I remember.


How will I make it through the day? I’ll never sleep! Whatever plans I had for this Saturday fall by the wayside. I’m going to brave a dangerous neighbourhood of my metropolis instead. I must get my fix. Getting up and dressing inconspicuously. Nothing too sexy, nothing to attract the attention of the dregs of society that lurk where I’ll be venturing.

Jeans. A black turtleneck. Perfect for a sunny fall day in September. No one will hoot, “How much honey, looking for a date?”

Not bothering to brush the messy blonde hair on my head, I shove on a ball cap and hit the streets. Unfortunately a trendy (but crime ridden) area is the best place to score at 9am.  It will be crowded with shoppers and tourists later on, gleefully exploring the head shops and dive bars. But right now the sidewalks are empty. Almost. A homeless man sits mumbling to himself in the closed doorway of a tattoo parlour. A group of teenagers on a park bench outside the youth shelter pass around a beer. It’s obvious they haven’t been to bed yet. 

A light wind kicks up and blows fast food wrappers by my feet. I see the logos on them because my head is down. Best not to catch the eye of anyone speeding on meth or coming down from LSD.  McDonald’s. Taco Bell. KFC. My stomach rumbles but no distractions. I’m on mission. The prize is ahead.

There are three vendors in a row, all offering slightly different wares. The first shop is slightly rundown, and the only one open this early. I push the scratched, dirty door open and a smile pulls at  my lips. Taking a deep breath, the smell of dust, paper, and a slight hint of mold fills my lungs. This is my happy place. 

Rows and rows of used books are piled haphazardly everywhere. Some are on shelves, some lean against walls, some sit precariously on tables. It takes a moment for my eyes to adjust to the dim lighting.. The proprietor of the store is an odd-looking man with facial tics and dubious hygiene. 

“You again,” he says, “you can’t be done all them books already?”

I am. Rather than answer, I grin sheepishly and scurry towards the back of the store. This is the first time I’ve heard The Bookman speak. Normally he is bent over the counter carefully pencilling in prices; or shuffling books onto shelves, trying vainly to find space where there is none. I never ask for help, preferring the mystery of the hunt and the joy of unexpected finds.

There are amazing buys in the science fiction corner. I am addicted to Issac Asimov’s Robot short stories. I already own battered copies of Robot Dreams, Robot Visions, and The Robots of Dawns. (All picked up in this store.) The aisles are small, cramped, and I have to turn sideways to access the anthology area. Running my fingers over the spines in the “A” section, a thrill runs up my own spine.

The Complete Robot and The Rest of the Robots are here! Pulling them out, the corner of one looks partially chewed, and the other might be missing a few pages. Prices are penciled on the first page. Ninety nine cents and $2.99 respectively. What. A. Score. I grab both and walk excitedly back to the front to place them on the counter. 

The man behind the counter nods at me. He knows I’m just getting started. 

I’m distracted by the W section, sitting right there on top of the shelf is Ruins by Dan Wells. I need the third book in the Partials Sequence! An old piece of gum is stuck to the back cover, but for $3.99 it’s mine.

Tucking it under my arm, I’m about to head to another letter, when I see Scott Westerfeld’s Pretties. I bought Uglies in my last scavenge, so this is excellent. Apparently Tally goes from Ugly to Pretty in this book? Yes please. $4.99. I may be well past my teen years, but I love Young Adult series. They are delicious.

The S section is always auspicious. I see Kristen Simmons Article 5. I’ve heard good things from fellow addicts on Goodreads. It’s in pristine condition. $10.99. What the heck. I’ll take it. Then a cover catches my eye. Neat font, eerie art. Neal Shusterman’s Unsouled. It is the first in a dystopian set. Of course it’s time to start a new series. $5.99, thank you. Those two get added to the pile and I remember not to buy more than I can carry. A twinge in my back throbs from the last time I staggered home with an aggressive amount of reading material. 

It might actually be easier to drag my bed here. Would that not be heaven? Maybe Bookman wouldn’t even notice me if I picked a dark enough corner. I’m jealous of his career choice. Imagine living in this wealth of fiction?

I’ve been meaning to try out Ann Aguirre’s Razorland Trilogy, so I tuck Enclave, Outpost, and Horde under my arm and head back to the register. Each one is $9.99, but this will be my treat. The books look new. 

The Bookman (one day I should find out his actual name, he is my number one dealer) has already rung up my purchases on an antique cash register. No Interac here. 

I hand him three crumpled $20 bills, and I’m out the door with two recycled grocery  bags full of wonderfulness. My ears can almost feel the smile touching them. Hunger forgotten, butterflies of anticipation tickle my stomach. There are a few more people on the street now, and I find them beautiful. The jogger weaving down the sidewalks, the drunk lady singing to herself by the liquor store, the dog walker sipping on a takeout coffee. 

It’s going to be a lovely day. And I have lots of new books. Perhaps I’ll pause on that park bench and start one now…