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.”
I loved this so much I had to share on my site as well as with the FB group for Parasol Protectorate (all with a very specific addition).
I’m glad you liked it, thank you for sharing it!
Unique and humorous a wonderful story.
Cleaver, and well written. I read it again and again … and again ….. and again ……..
Great fun for all us addicts. Well fleshed out with fun examples of all us readers. I love it.
Hilarious! I can sooo relate.
There’s help for us, Mary.
Excellent! A sort of 1984 scenario, but a lot closer to home.
It’s like, read this flash-fic story, but then, not much else afterwards. Or else! :-0
I greatly enjoyed this and I shared it to my FB profile. I found it very creative, imaginative and humorous…Kudos
Were you reading a book when this delightful story fell into your head?
I drafted this story during a slow shift at an urgent care, in which I alternated between reading the clinic’s drug treatment pamphlets and compulsively checking the hold queue on my online public library account between patients.
You should know that I screen BAST-10 positive.
Thanks for reading, I’m glad you enjoyed it!
I laughed till tears came. Had to stop till I could see again. So creative and so enjoyable. Thank you for this wonderful story.
Thank you for reading it! So glad you enjoyed it!
This kind of Fahrenheit 451/1984 scenario somehow renewed relevance today. Wonder if our President has ever read a book.
Hi Reed, thanks for reading! I thought you’d get unsettled with this one.
I love this! I’m going to share your flash fiction piece with all my librarian colleagues. I look forward to furthering my addiction with your works. 😉
The testimony inspired me to stop my own 12-step group Online Readers Anonymous League (ORAL) since books in Texas can only be seen in those terrible “Death on Your Brains Highways” videos they make kids watch in high school. The ones with old film showing teens bleeding from their eyes (including the gruesome scene where the freshman girl’s brain splatters the walls when she attempts to read “War and Peace” cover to cover instead of the abridged Cliff’s Notes of the Cliff’s Notes). We are suffering an online flash fiction epidemic. Okay, twelve online readers in the greater Dallas area, but a dozen readers will soon turn into a hundred thousand if we aren’t proactive.
Very clever. “Any consumption of poetry.” lol