As I was shelving in our Graphic Novel section the other day, I stumbled upon The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger. Now I already knew that this book existed so the title wasn’t new to me, but this was the first time I had seen it in person. Being an individual of the librarian persuasion, I was compelled to pick it up. I found myself standing there in the middle of the first floor and reading the entire thing from cover to cover. Which, because it’s a graphic novel of less than 35 pages, isn’t really as daunting (or lollygagging on work time) as it sounds. I then put it back into its display holder and walked away to continue my book shelving duties. But on my second pass I picked it up again. I put it on my truck and knew it would be coming with me. But why? I had already read it. Why was it still calling to me?
Just to give you a brief synopsis without giving away the ending, a young woman out late at night stumbles across a bookmobile. She enters and discovers that every book on every shelf is one she has read at some point in her lifetime. They are ALL there. Her children’s books, those noteworthy classics she ‘tried to read’ as a teenager, college textbooks, magazines, cereal boxes, even her own diary. Then it’s dawn and it’s time for the bookmobile, HER bookmobile, to leave. She becomes obsessed with finding this bookmobile again. Her late night wanderings to locate it cause her boyfriend to think she is seeing someone else and drive him away.
During the long years between its appearances, she reads voraciously to add to her bookmobile’s collection. Reading becomes her obsession. She reads to please the librarian that drives her bookmobile and wonders if he is proud of her choices. She reads to the detriment of her personal relationships. She decides to become a librarian. (Loving to read, by the way, is not the best reason to become a librarian. We deal with people more than books.) Her whole life becomes centered around this obsession to read more books and to become a librarian on her bookmobile.
This book spoke to me on a number of levels. First, the woman was able to revisit her life by perusing her reading history. It made me think about the different kinds of books I have read during the different stages in my life. There are many I would like to revisit. Did my stage in life affect my reading choices, or did what I chose to read affect each stage in my life?
Also, the woman’s reading fixation caused me to stop and think about my own personal obsessions. What have I been obsessed with in the past? What am I fixated on now that is affecting other parts of my life? What have I lost or overlooked due to my passion for something else?
And now I ask you – what does your reading history say about you? If you were to revisit all the items you had ever read, would there be a discernable pattern? If someone else were to peruse the shelves of your personal library, what ideas about you as a person would they walk away with? Would they know you better than someone who had met you in person?
What is your obsession? What do you over-engage in to the detriment of everything else? Is it sports? Television or movies? Video games? Food? Shopping? Having to be right all the time, or the first/best?
What have you sacrificed for your obsession? Your friends? Family? Relationships? Career? Taking care of your own self and well-being?
Was it worth it?
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