Nadine had left the pamphlet on the counter along with a post-it note telling me she was leaving. I stood in the kitchen turning it over in my hands. I wondered how Nadine had packed up all of her things and left before ten in the morning, but then it occurred to me that maybe she had left yesterday or the day before. It had been a while since I’d gotten up and gone into the kitchen. Since I’d been fired, I’d had a lot more time to read.
Understanding Book Use and Its Impact on You
Is reading taking over your life? Misuse of books can have a serious, negative impact on you and those around you. Talk to your librarian about treatment options, resources, and support available to you.
What is Book Abuse?
In one survey, more than 2 million people reported being dependent on or abusing books in 2016. According to the National Institute on Book Abuse (NIBA), nearly all literature-addicted people believe at first that they can stop reading on their own. After experiencing cycles of withdrawal and relief, many begin to believe that new thoughts are necessary for survival and spend more and more time making sure that they continue to keep a consistent level of literature in their system.
How You Can Get Help
Book addiction can happen to anyone and is more common than you may think. Take the Book Abuse Screening Test (BAST-10) to find out if your behaviors reveal potential book abuse. The BAST-10 should be used in addition to, not as a replacement of, a conversation with your librarian.
The Book Abuse Screening Test (BAST-10)
- Use of books other than those required for scholastic or employment reasons, i.e. textbooks, instruction manuals, or catalogues.
- Reading more than one book at a time.
- Being unable to stop using books when you want to.
- Having flashbacks as a result of book use, i.e. laughing at the recollection of a book under wholly unrelated circumstances.
- Feeling bad or guilty about your book use.
- Your spouse, friends, or parents complaining about your involvement with books.
- Engaging in illegal activities in order to obtain books.
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop reading books.
- Having problems as a result of your book use such as loss of appetite, nervousness, sleeplessness, uncontrolled vocal outbursts and/or tics, fast/pounding or irregular heartbeat, or a false sense of well-being.
- Any consumption of poetry.
If you have any positive answers on the BAST-10, treatment may be recommended.
A Serious Condition
NIBA has defined book addiction as “a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive book seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.” The goal of treatment is to help book-addicted people stop misusing books and regain control over their lives. Talk with your librarian about the difference the right support can make. You may be a candidate for a Prescription Book Use Program.
I got the message. I did, and I agreed with it. I planned to stop soon. But I figured, before I did, I should read through the stack I’d built up, especially while I had so much free time. I didn’t want those books to go to waste. I’d spent good money on them.
I never got the chance. Two days later the Department of Media Consumption and Idea Management picked me up. Jimmy—Jim, the guy who’d first handed me Hemingway, who occasionally dog-eared but never annotated his merchandise, and who seemed to really appreciate a finely crafted sentence—turned out to have been a narc all along. I should have known something was up when he started me on the Wheel of Time books. Fourteen volumes in the series, and it was the shittiest quality stuff I’d read in years.
Now I’m part of the Prescription Book Use program. The idea is to control what I’m reading, taper me down slowly. Every week I meet with my librarian and we go over the conditions of my book prescription. I get a 30-day supply of books. If I run out, I don’t ask for new books early. I don’t share or trade my books with anyone, and I keep my books in a secure location away from children. I understand that my librarian may be required to disclose my reading history to law enforcement officials. Book use has risks, and every week, I acknowledge them with my signature on the dotted line. I’m grateful. I’m committed. But I also keep thinking, if they trust me, if I prove that I can be reliable, maybe they’ll feel comfortable enough to give me the latest Margaret Atwood.
I know now what I need to say in order to get by in this program. I say, “I’m a book addict and my name is Chris.” I say, “For the first time in my life, I recognize myself for who I am: a book addict.” I say, “What started out as fun on the weekends, turned into a way of life. Reading became more important to me than anything else. I lived to read, read to live, and did whatever I needed to do to obtain the books to support my habit. But I am so grateful to my Librarian, the Prescription Book Use Program, Nadine, and the Organization Against the Criminalization of Readers, for believing in me and in my rehabilitation.”