Being a bookworm

When I was a young child, I constantly had my nose in a book. My parents, extended family, and family friends used to refer to me as a ‘bookworm,’ which I absolutely hated. To me, the term bookworm was offensive. It came across with a negative vibe, as if I chose to be anti-social because I didn’t like people.

I didn’t like people. But that wasn’t why I read.

I read because I was obsessed with books. Novels, in particular. I’d try to read at the dinner table, to my parents’ displeasure. I’d read upon waking, late into the night, and whenever we visited people. From Goosebumps to Dickens, I brought my books everywhere.

On long road trips—which were, in fact, never that long because we lived in England—I’d attempt to read at night by the intermittent glow of the rapidly passing streetlights. It was a difficult task, since roads in England can get fairly windy and I’d always get carsick when reading in the car, day or night.

I’ve skipped out on events, called in sick to work, and ditched boyfriends to finish a great novel. And, at the end of the day, it was completely worth it.

Here are some stories from other bookworms and the lengths to which they’d go just to read a good book.

“The day Harry Potter 7 came out, me and my colleague working in a bookshop bought a copy each and spent the entire shift reading. It was bliss. Whilst working in kitchens, instead of taking fag breaks, I would grab my book and go and stand next to the fishy bins of Loch Fyne and read for 10 minutes or so. It was lush.” – Matilda Marshall, UK

“I used to hide in my bedroom bathroom, because it was the only light in my room that couldn’t be seen out of the windows by my parents on the second floor. I was leaned against the tub at 3:30am on a school night, shaking my head to stay awake so that I could keep reading the Robert Jordan Wheel of Time series.” – Dana Giesbrecht, Edmonton, AB

“I skipped class at university once to stay home and finish reading Dracula.” – Jen Putnam, UK

“I hid in the library and pulled an all-nighter to finish reading Wild Swan by Celeste de Blasis. I was supposed to study for my final that was at 8am the next morning, but read instead…didn’t do too well on my final, but the book was epic!” – Zakhiyya Murji, Edmonton, AB

“For a few years after high school, I worked in the receiving department of a Barnes & Noble, unloading pallets of books as they came in from the distributors. This spoiled me, in that I got used to having books around all the time, and easily getting away with flipping through a new title for a few minutes while still appearing to be busy at my actual duties.

“Skipped classes, cancelled plans, built elaborate reading nests, made coffee at 3am to stay up and keep reading then going in to work the next day…
The Farseer Trilogy had me in tears for hours at the end, so I had to cancel my plans on a Friday night because I was a wreck. The Mistborn series had me up until 4am or something when I had to work at 9am the next morning.” – Sylvia Douglas, Edmonton, AB

On a whim, at age 21, I quit that job and moved across the country to Seattle, where I got hired as a night janitor at a University of Washington teaching hospital. At first they assigned me to clean the surgeons’ offices, which was perfect because it meant going in at 4:00pm when most of the surgeons were heading home. This meant I had an entire floor of an empty office building completely to myself. It took roughly two hours to do the cleaning (surgeons aren’t very messy, at least not when they aren’t cutting into people) and I spent the rest of the time pacing the halls, twirling my keys, and reading in the Head of Surgery’s office chair (which was immensely comfortable and cost more than my rent).

After two or three months, I was transferred to a day-shift job in the main hospital building containing the burn unit and the pediatric ICU: literally the two saddest departments in any medical facility. Unlike my previous assignment, this one was both back- and heart-breaking, so I frequently needed to sneak off to the broom closet to read and clear my mind.

It was at this time that I learned how to literally hide at work, by crouching down onto a stack of bulk soap boxes conveniently hidden behind a pair of rolling trash bins. If a co-worker were to peek his head in for a second, he’d miss me entirely. If he bothered to walk into the closet (which happened no more than twice the entire year I worked there), he’d reach me just as I began diligently opening a fresh case of soap. Of all the books I read that year, the one that sticks out is Philip Gourevich’s We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families, an account of the Rwandan genocide. I also remember reading and re-reading Alan Dugan’s Poems Seven religiously. Also Dave Eggers’s You Shall Know Our Velocity, an Elvis Costello biography called Complicated Shadows, Brad Land’s hazing memoir Goat, and a homoerotic reimagining of Nudie Cohn’s life called The Haunted Hillbilly. I got fired from that job for general dereliction of duty, but I don’t think anyone ever cottoned on to my sneaky reading habits.” – Jim Meakim, USA

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