Welcome to the Book Nerd’s Guide to Life! Every other week, we convene in this safe place to discuss the unique challenges of life for people whose noses are always wedged in books. For past guides, click here.
Nine days out of 10, I’m inclined to agree with Jean-Paul Sartre: “Hell is other people.” On those days when the rest of the species disappoints you, it’s so natural, so easy to rely on your No. 1 coping mechanism: a good book.
This is why I believe it is entirely possible to be in love with a book. You see, books fill a void often left by interactions in this world. Sure, what you’re reading can often tear your heart out, stomp on it, and shove it back into your chest. But it doesn’t discourage you or fill you with regret. A book’s challenges and heartbreak only make you love it more.
Better yet, a book doesn’t discourage you from loving again. A healthy relationship with a book isn’t monogamous at all.
I’m happy to announce I myself am in a new book relationship with the unexpected and haunting Lovecraft Country, the one-two punch of otherworldly and Jim Crow horrors you never knew you needed. Right now, I’m in the phase of the relationship where I sing its praises to everyone I meet. I want to shout from the rooftops about my undying affection for this book.
What other phases of book love are there? Oh, I reckon you’re familiar with them, on the off chance you’ve ever loved another—homo sapien or hardback.
You see it, in the center display, among the new releases. Its striking cover catches your eye. The typography seduces you. You come closer, because you must. Once that book in is in your hands, you know it’s coming home with you, and every sentence of its backside blurb confirms for you the rightness of the situation.
You have more errands to run once you leave the bookstore, and it drives you crazy that you can’t tear open its page right now. But you pull it out of the shopping bag and place it, regally, on the passenger seat. You want it to understand your interest.
When you finally do get a chance to dive into your new reading relationship, the infatuation only grows. You find any and all excuses to sneak some time with your book of choice. You take up recreational bathroom breaks at work, and you upsize the clutches you take out to dinner with you so you can squeeze in some reading between courses.
This is the stage of book love that has you sharing favorite passages on Snapchat, and your Instagram is nothing but various shots of the book in different locations: perched on your lap by the pool, swirled artistically in a blanket on the couch, peeking out from beneath your cat, etc.
You’d think that once you finish a book, your relationship with it would mostly end. Instead, it’s just the beginning of a much more serious commitment. Now you must proselytize. You must persuade the rest of the world not only of your love but of the belief that they too much love this book. You work the title into conversations entirely unrelated. You compare real-life situations to key plot points (without revealing too much, of course). You shoehorn it in as your book club’s next selection just so you can re-read it.
Till Death Do Us Part
There are some books you know are destined to be bequeathed in your will someday. Your grandchildren, once they have proven their merit through a series of challenges, will inherit this precious tome one day—once they pry it from your cold, dead hands.
These are the books that inspire you to tattoo yourself with their quotations. These are the books that survive countless moves and a number of real-life relationships. These are the books whose covers are falling off because of the number of times you’ve re-read them—and the number of times the dog has yanked them off the nightstand. These are the books who understand the meaning of well-loved.
What books have you in it for the long haul?