When I moved from Southern California to Montreal last year—a journey of almost 3,000 miles—I knew I had to pack light. So I sold all of my furniture, purged my closet, and got rid of anything that wasn’t absolutely essential to my daily life. Then I packed 15 boxes of books and had them all shipped (at great expense) to Canada. I could live without a couch for a while—my books were a different story. Hello, my name is Lara Rutherford-Morrison, and I am a bibliophile. Perhaps you're familiar with that life.
The word “bibliophile” literally means a lover (phile) of books (biblio). The term is often thrown around to refer to people who simply like to read, but in its most precise interpretation, “bibliophile” means something more specific: someone who loves books particularly—how they look, how they smell, what they feel like. Of course, most bibliophiles are great readers, collecting (OK, hoarding) books in part because they love the narratives in them. But they also value books as fascinating objects in themselves, objects with their own stories to tell. These are readers who will never really be satisfied with electronic books—how can a cold iPad screen possibly compare to a tattered, musty, well-loved print book? To find out if you are one of those blessed with (or suffering from, depending on you point of view) bibliophilia, read on.
1. You have both a permanent copy and a loaner copy of your favorite books
Certain books—ones I’ve read over and over since I was a teenager—have enormous personal value to me. Of course, I want to share these wonderful, formative reading experiences with other people. But other people are jerks sometimes! What if I lend a friend a book and she dog-ears the pages? What if she breaks the spine? WHAT IF SHE LOSES IT? So I have my copy, and a loaner copy, and everyone is happy. All perfectly normal, right?
2. You judge other people according to the books they have
Oh, come on. We all do it. Actually, I don’t judge people so much by what books they have as by whether they own books or not. I don’t care what people read, but someone who doesn’t have any books is probably an orc and cannot be trusted.
3. You spend way to much time thinking about book organization
My books are organized according to an intricate system that is so logical that only I can understand it. Some are alphabetized, some are categorized according to genre, some are ordered by color.
4. Used books stores fill you with glee
Used books are the best: they’re cheap, they hold the same texts as newer editions, and sometimes you find amazing evidence of past readers—marginal notes, bookmarks, inscriptions. All tiny glimpses into other people’s lives. Bibliophiles can't get enough of all of that. More, please.
5. You view books as actual home decor
Because they are pretty. Spaces always look more interesting, more inviting, and more homey when they are filled with books.
6. You plan to use them as centerpieces at your wedding (or you already did)
For bibliophiles, books form a major part of one’s personal identity. It’s only natural that you’d want to be surrounded by them on your big day.
7. Your ultimate fantasy is to have a library in your house, à la Belle in Beauty and the Beast.
Preferably one with a ladder. And yes, you're going to swing around the room, gesturing grandly, whatever.
8. You would love to travel far and wide to look at books and the homes of the people who write them
I’ve gone far, far out of my way to visit places like Haworth (home of the Brontë family in West Yorkshire) and Prince Edward Island (home Lucy Maud Montgomery and the Anne books). There is something powerful in seeing where my favorite books were written, and in seeing great authors’ own books. Because, naturally, great writers tend to be bibliophiles themselves.
9. You own multiple copies of the same books
I have at least four copies of Pride and Prejudice, including a battered paperback edition, a fancy leather-bound edition, a critical edition, and an illustrated edition. And they are all completely necessary to my life.
10. You spend crazy amounts of money on rare books
One would have to have crazy amounts of money in order to fulfill this criterion, but I think we can assume that whoever spent $11.5 million on a copy of John James Audubon's Birds of America in 2010 is a pretty hard-core book lover.
Images: Jessica Hanrahan, mdesive, Thalita Carvalho/Flickr; Giphy(2); Getty Images(2)