National Book Lovers Day

To all of my nerdy little bookworms out there; you daytime dreamers, wordy warriors, turning pages as unknown worlds stretch out before you and dancing with the characters of your favorite fables: today is for you, my bibliophile friends. Happy National Book Lover's Day!

The telling of tales is an intriguing human phenomenon that has propelled our culture to greater heights throughout our existence on this lovely planet. Even today it is the focal point of our society, though in a myriad of forms. Books, movies, television, the nightly news, music, magazines, and in many cases art itself- they all work to tell you a story, as fleeting or tangential as it may be. This is a uniquely human trait that is so engrained in who we are that we don't even notice it half of the time. We are constantly sharing stories; when we greet one another and ask how our days were after long hours spent at work, we are telling our story. We share events and news items like the social currency that they are. We tell tales- both real and imagined; and we grow outward like the branches of a tree with every word we revel in. All humans are born with an innate love for the art of storytelling, whether they are conscious of it or not.
Yet today, this beautiful day we find ourselves in right now- it is not a day meant for everyone. No, my dear friends, today is for people like us. Today is for those gorgeous souls who have fallen in love with the smell of aged and discolored tomes found nestled in a bin at a garage sale; for those who adore the feel of paper running under fingertips. Today is for those who spent childhood nights hidden under covers with flashlights and their favorite paperback as their only company; for those who still fall asleep with the remnants of a plot line running through their heads. Today is meant for those of us who swoon when we enter bookstores and count out the pennies from our last paycheck because we want just one more. Today is meant for those of us who trade titles like others trade phone numbers. Today is the day to celebrate the worlds we have discovered through the written word. Today was meant for people like me who found our hearts tucked into the well-worn pages of a tattered paperback. We are the masters of the page, the swashbuckling adventurers, the finder of secrets and keeper of keys. We are the dreamers of the daylight; the intriguing readers of books.
I can honestly say I don't know what my life would look like without the books that help color my existence. I thank my lucky stars to have been born into the world long after the Gutenberg Printing Press gave us its first creation (in 1455, to be exact). In honor of the day, I think a few fun facts to astound and amuse are in order. After all, it seems surprising to me how little I know about something that is such a large part of my life.

  • The average number of books read per year is 12, although this number is considered to be skewed by the more avid readers; the most common number reported was just 4. The average CEO, on the other hand reads about 4-5 books every month.
  • Finland is the world's most literate nation.
  • In 2005 a study was conducted to determine which countries read the most. India came out on top of the pack with a whopping 10.45 hours per week. Sadly, the US came in on the lower end of the spectrum with a mere 5 hours and 42 minutes.

  • There are over 129 million books in existence (keep in mind that this number was as of 2010; obviously it has only grown since then).
  • Bibliosmia: the love of the smell of old books (I'm actually really excited that there is a word for this).
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was the first book ever written using a typewriter
  • The covers of the first printed books were considered to be artwork; they were ornately decorated. The names of the authors did not appear on the covers until more recent times
  • President Theodore Roosevelt read one book per day
  • The longest sentence ever written is 823 words long and can be found in Les Miserables.
  • The most money ever spent on one book was $30.8 million; It was Codex Leicester by Leonardo Da Vinci. Naturally, it was purchased by Bill Gates (don't worry, I don't think he broke the bank with that one). This is the most famous of Da Vinci's scientific journals and is filled with his handwritten notes and ideas. The notebook itself is only 72 pages long, which means that for each individual page, Gates spent about $427,778.78. What do you do after spending a small fortune on 72 pages? You scan them and turn them into screen savers, naturally.

  • Charles Dickens' house has a secret door that looked like a bookshelf. Some of the books displayed on this false shelf included: The Life of a Cat (in 9 volumes)
  • In 2007 Steven King was mistaken for a vandal when he made an unplanned stop at a bookstore in Australia and began signing copies.
  • The very first book printed in Oxford contained a misprint (it was incorrectly dated as 1468 instead of 1478)
  • Books used to be shelved with the spine facing the back of the shelf and the pages pointing out
  • On average, a person browsing in a bookstore will spend 8 seconds looking at the front cover and 15 seconds perusing the back
  • Women buy 68% of all books sold
  • At what page do must readers lose interest? That unlucky number is 18.
  • The three most read books in the world are: The Holy Bible; Quotations from the Works of Mao Tse-tung; and Harry Potter. (Okay, sadly I have only read 2 out of 3- looks like I have something new for my personal reading list).

  • The purpose of the Penguin paperbacks was to make books as affordable as cigarettes
  • Nancy Pearl is the only librarian to have an action figure made after her
  • The term 'bookworm' is coined after after actual insects who feed on the binding of books
  • Steven Blumberg was a bibliokleptomaniac (oh yes- this is a real word, meaning a person who steals books- be honest, we all have that one friend who never returns them). He stole over 23,000 rare books from 268 libraries, clocking in at an estimated $20 million value. His life would make one fantastic movie, as his methods included some true 007 style when we would climb through ventilation ducts and elevator shafts.
  • If you read one book every day, it would still take you over 600,000 years to finish everything in the Library of Congress (which is still continuing to grow). The moral of the story: you never need to complain about not having something good to read- the possibilities are truly endless

And now, my dear friends, I am off to go celebrate this little holiday by doing what I do every night: read "just one more chapter." Cheers, my friends, may the wine (or tea, or water) be delicious, may the words come easy and may the books inspire your soul.

Tsundoku: How the Japanese have named my soul

Language is a beautifully complex creation of the human mind. Individual cultures and the languages that they speak feed and thrive off of one another. Therefore, it is not so unheard of that many of these dialects will evolve in different, though similar, directions. There is a beautiful thing when you find a word that does not easily translate into your own native tongue. Usually it is something that you deeply understand, a word that makes you go ‘aha! why don’t we have this already?’ Take ‘mamihlapinatapei,’ a Yagan word that is best described as ‘the wordless, yet meaningful look shared by two people who both desire to initiate something but are both reluctant to start.’ I’m guessing this is a look that you can picture right now. And yet in the English language we have nothing simple to describe this scenario. And then there is the Yiddish word ‘shlimazl’ which roughly means a perpetually unlucky person. What about ‘jayus,’ an Indonesian word that means ‘a joke so poorly told and so unfunny that one cannot help but laugh.’ Personally, I am an expert in the jayus. In fact, I think that’s going to be a new staple in my vocabulary. I find the study of languages and their eccentricities and divergence to be deeply fascinating. And while I could probably go on for pages upon pages with different examples, I am going to leave you with the one that started this whole article.

You see, apart from my quickly worded jayus (I don’t know if I used that correctly, and I can’t help but wonder if there is a plural form of this), there is another word I discovered that touches me on a deeply fundamental level. Tsundoku is the Japanese word that encompasses a difficult aspect of my life. This is my chosen art form: it is the act of buying books that pile up unread on your shelves. If this were a crime, I would be serving a life sentence.

It’s not that I don’t respect the books, no, that was never the issue for me. It is that my love for them goes so deep that I cannot say no when I see something that I want. Especially when it happens to be on sale. I have always had an obsession with books, even when I was a little kid- I owned more than I was able to cram into my overflowing bookshelf. They were stacked beside, on top of, and in front of one another (and this does not include the pile usually precariously placed beside my bed). As all small children do, I eventually grew up, and a glorious thing happened. I got a job. And with a job came money. What was a young enterprising eighteen year old woman to do after buying a few stylish work outfits? Run down to Borders (oh yes, how I miss this chain- I don’t know how they could have possibly gone out of business considering I might as well have set up my direct deposit to go straight to them). Obviously, this was before I grew up enough to have a mountain of bills to chip away at. But the love for the crisp paper and dark ink has never abated. Granted, it has expanded- with limited storage space and a frustration with mounds of clutter, I have evolved into an e-book carrier on top of my vast array in my actual bookshelf. It’s a good thing too- it is much easier to stay on my fiancé’s good side when my literary loves are only taking up space on my tablet as opposed to drowning him in even more cleverly placed bookshelves.

I am not even remotely ashamed of this love of mine, I display my books proudly, I keep my myriad of reading devices beside my bed or in my purse at all times. You will never find me without something to read within my reach. But there is a bit of a flaw in my plan. You see, I can buy these little paper lovelies much faster than I can actually read them. And when I see something that I like (especially on sale, oh, may the book gods have mercy on my soul if I walk into Barnes and Noble and see the clearance section, or, even worse- a special deal on my kindle. One-click shopping was the most ingenious evil that I have ever encountered). But when I see something that I like on sale- I can’t pass it up. I am physically unable to ignore the deal. Because there is a whole new world within those pages, and who am I to deny myself- nay, my craft- the opportunity to open my soul to a new creation? So I buy it. And then it sits on my shelf. And eventually I will read it, but you don’t know if it will be in a day or three years from now.

This has been an ever growing problem. One I attempted to remedy once upon a time. My piles were growing too large, so I told myself that I would have to read ten books for every one that I bought. This lasted about a week. And then I went I into ‘book debt.’ Promising myself that I would read them eventually to make up for what I bought. Eventually I gave up completely. I even went so far as to write down my entire ‘to-read’ list. Ironically, that file corrupted and I can’t look at it anymore. Probably a good thing because I know that my input is still vastly larger than my output.

So you see, I have discovered my soul in the language of another tongue. It’s beautiful, it’s prophetic, and it’s also reminding me to start working through that list I have. I will be brutally honest- if an asteroid hit the Earth tomorrow and I were trapped in an underground bunker for the next three years, I would still have enough to keep me occupied without begging to be released onto the unlivable surface to trek my way to the nearest library.