I’ve never been monogamous in my book relationships. There are too many wonderful, amazing, fascinating, moving, hilarious, powerful, lovely books out there to read just one at a time.
I’ll be in a steady, committed relationship with a great book, and then my fingers start wandering and flipping through the pages of another missive. The smooth cover tempts me with new stories and characters. It’s a type of book I’ve never read before, and I want to know what it has to offer. I breathe that booky smell deep into my lungs and sigh with longing. I regretfully put it down if I’m not at least 50 pages in to everything else I’m reading. I’m a fair book lover: I’m dedicated to reading all of them in consistent intervals. I won’t abandon one after I start it even if the next book I pick up is flashier and more exciting. The relationships have to be maintained so that no one is resentful or jealous, and I can feel my love for them grow when I make time to share special moments with each novel.
My husband won’t do this. He strikes up a wonderful relationship with a fantastic book, and then I catch him cheating with another book on the sly. “Hey! All the Shah’s Men is what I’M planning on reading next! Are you stealing it away from me?” “Yeah, it’s really interesting.” “Did you finish your other book?” “No.” “Are you going to finish this one after you start it?” “No, I’m just flirting with it.”
He was pages away from completing a beautiful relationship with Horns in the High Country when Freakonomics with its bright shiny cover marched in and stole all the thunder. He finishes those jilted books eventually, but the relationship has suffered and it takes a lot of commitment and reassurances that he won’t leave them again.
When I start a relationship with a book, I’ll almost always see it through until the end. Maybe it’s annoying me, it’s long-winded, it doesn’t have anything interesting to say…I’ll still finish it and move on with a cry of, “Good riddance! May you never darken my door again, Thomas Mann and your Death in Venice!” It’s a very rare instance indeed that I’ll completely cut off a book relationship after making a promise to read it. I got less than 15 pages in to Don Quixote before I turned down his advances. “I just got out of a long-term relationship with The Count of Monte Cristo, and I’m not looking to start up anything serious right now.”
My book dating style isn’t for everyone, but it’s served me well. I don’t look at the end of the love affair and get an overview of what our relationship is going to look like for the next 300 pages. “Woah, you’re moving too fast!” I cry out. “You’ve already picked out a Lord of the Rings, thought up The Marriage Plot, chosen a Little House on the Prairie and named The Children of Men!” I start from the beginning. If I don’t like what they have to say in the first couple of paragraphs, I move on with no hard feelings and wish them luck with their next reader. Friends and family know me well enough to set me up on blind dates with books that they think I’ll like. “Hey Meghan! You have so much in common with Meghann from The Thorn Birds. You’ll love it! Maybe you’ll even name your first child after one of the characters.”
When you’ve been in a few mediocre book relationships it can sour your opinion on the whole concept of ‘book love.’ I want to reassure all of you that it’s important that you never give up. True love is out there. Those fuzzy clichés librarians keep spouting with an ecstatic joy are all real, and when you’ve found it you’ll be as giddy as they are. As a Literary Polygamist, I keep that love and joy coming at me from at least three different books at any given time. Sometimes four. Sometimes more. There are so many books out there to love and ways to love them.
Ah, books. How DO I love thee? Let me count just a few ways:
- Love at First Sight: Ooh, look how pretty the cover is!
- Love is Blind: Audio books, for when you really want to keep reading, but you’re too tired to keep your eyes open.
- Timing is Everything: Death of a Salesman at age 18: This is kind of boring. Death of a Salesman at age 28 with no job or spouse: Ahh, I get it now.
- Weak in the Knees: Or, if you’re reading Stephen King’s Misery, “weak in the shins.”
- Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder: When you’re sitting at work and you’d rather be curled up on your couch to find out how Katniss is faring in The Hunger Games.
- When you know, you Know: How does a book become your favorite? You’ll know. Don’t worry, you’ll know.
- Opposites Attract: “What are you reading?” “Moneyball.” “Isn’t that about baseball statistics?” “Yup.” “Do you follow baseball or care about statistics?” “Nope, but this book is fascinating.”
- True Love is Worth the Wait: When it was 1999 and you read the first three Harry Potter books and realized with agony that you couldn’t keep reading because the next four books hadn’t been written yet.
- Everything Happens for a Reason: WHY R. R. Martin?! Why are you doing this to us?
- Build your Relationship on a Solid Foundation: When you stack your books wisely so they won’t come cascading down on your head in the middle of the night.
- It’s Better to have Loved and Lost than Never Loved at All: Oh, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, why did you have to go back through the wardrobe door?
- All’s fair in Love and War: But nothing’s fair in War and Peace.
- You had me at: “”Hello, ship,” Jake Holman said under his breath. The ship was asleep and did not hear him.”
- There’s More than One Fish in the Sea: But there’s only one fish for the old man.
- Fall Head Over Heels: When you fall down the stairs because you were trying to read while walking.
“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”