Good Addictions?

A friend of mine recently suggested that I write a blog post about the therapeutic effect book buying can have on some people along with the irony that it only increases stress due to the ever-increasing number of unread books.

She said, and I quote:

"I was determined I wouldn't buy any more books for a while, thinking that I would read the books I already have on my 'to read' list, but alas, I walked past a book shop, had to pop in, and obviously bought two… I'm hopeless … And you know I have special book cases for the ones I've read, and another book case (or two) for the ones I intend to read, or want to read, or why not, wish I had read already."

I think this sort of thing is a common problem (at least among my friends, the little bookworms). Which got me thinking, is it a problem? Or is there such a thing as a good addiction?

Obviously everyone needs hobbies, interests – things that bring them joy or meaning and distract them from everyday problems or even huge problems – or let's face it, the bigger existential issues. Not to get too heavy. But I suppose being devil's advocate, one could argue that having a strong interest in something to a compelling degree, whether it's TV, books or trainspotting, could actually be labeled an addiction.

I would definitely say that I and the Future Hub are addicted to the movies. We really depend on seeing them to cope with the Sunday Night Blues. Even movies about piranhas and last exorcisms (and that's only in the last month).

If it's good for you, like reading, or writing, or painting or exercising, then how can it be bad? I guess it comes down to awareness. Is the 'addiction' something you truly enjoy or is it just an escape from something else you should be focusing on? Even if it is something you love, are there other things you truly want to be doing but you've stopped because you've formed a habit? (This would apply to my TV watching at times, I'm pretty sure.) Also, would it be a good idea to take a break from it once in a while to get out of a rut or just see a different perspective? (Like me with music recently, click here to read more).

My friend also raises another point, that of guilt:

"I long for the day when I've read all my "to read books" and can choose a book because I want to read it, perhaps even for the sixteenth time, but it doesn't matter because I don't have any other books lined up."

Hm. Life is tough enough without this kind of pressure. Sometimes I find it really helpful to do something – not because it's on my to-do list – but because it's really important to me and I'm excited about it. I would say to my bookworm here, every few books, go ahead and choose a book just because you want to read it and not because it's on your 'to read' list. There's nothing to feel guilty about here – it was your choice to set up these 'to read' bookshelves in the first place and you have total control over ignoring them! Also, in life, there will always be to-do lists of things you want to be doing, things you need to be doing, dishes piling up in the sink and interruptions from demanding people. But how else to actually live if you can't every so often just do something for the joy of it and lose yourself in it, without worrying about all that other noise?

If you have a topic or a question that you'd like me to address, please email me at


  1. I've got a slightly different problem at the moment - I've got a few books in my 'to read' pile, but my husband recently bought me a Sony e-Reader for my birthday so now I've put about a million (give or take) books on that.... so now I have two 'to read' piles - one in paper and one on my e-Reader! Good job I've got a few days off coming up - I can indulge myself in both forms of books!

  2. I like just collecting as many books as possible so that I always have something that will suit whatever mood I'm in. I have a lot of books.

  3. I do like the idea of having a pipeline of stuff to read. It's like I'll never run out. As for the e-readers, Emma, what is that husband of yours thinking? I guess I have to admit I'm pretty old-fashioned when it comes to books, and hate the idea of using a reader. When I see people on the tube using one, I get really annoyed and think about knocking it out of their hands. I'm sure that would either get me arrested or at the very least sentenced to an anger management course, so I restrain myself. Instead, I give them (or perhaps more accurately the e-reader) a 'dirty look'. They don't usually notice, they are too absorbed in their reading!

  4. I'm with you Taron about being old-fashioned when it comes to books. I like the smell (I know, weird right?) and feel of books, and the way a book looks more and more read as you flick through the pages, and I also like to stand in front of my book shelves, scanning the titles. There is no way an e-reader could give me that.

  5. I was always a huge book reader as a kid - I had an agreement with my mother that for holiday/gift giving occasions, all I wanted was either books or vouchers to buy them. My sister got chocolate eggs for easter, I got books. I'd read a couple of books a week.

    That lasted until I got pregnant, and even now that my son is four, I'm lucky to read a book every few weeks. But I still buy them at a huge rate (I had entire shelves of unread books in the first few months after birth) but I've managed to curtail it somewhat. I have to make an effort to say to myself "you've got about 50 unread books at home - spend this money elsewhere".

  6. That's good that you've managed to curtail it somewhat. I think the best solution to this problem we all seem to have would be if we all just had more time to read! (We can dream, at least...)

    That's the one really good thing about my commute to work. Although it's an hour each way, it actually gives me time to read, because I feel like there's not much else I can be doing!

  7. A few years ago a painter friend of mine turned me on to the excellent library system in NYC. Virtually every book I've ever become interested is in their circulating collection and all I have to do is log on with my library card to request that they be delivered to my local branch, three blocks from my house. When they arrive there they send me an email telling me they've arrived and I pop over and pick them up. They're sitting together on a shelf with my "code number" printed on a paper and wrapped around them. I am constantly reading about three books at a time this way, and if something comes up in conversation that interests me I know I can have it in my hands within a week. If a book doesn't interest me enough to get through it within the month or so until it's due, I give it back and move onto something better suited to my current mood. I can always take it out again, it's free, and I don't feel any guilt about not getting around to reading it, or anxiety about whether or not it's worth buying. I love the library. But I also love the people that buy tons of books because Authors deserve to be Rock Stars.


Back to Top