Monday, July 6, 2015

The Neurotic's Guide to Book-Borrowing by Amber Leigh Williams

Before I get into this month's topic, I wanted to share some great news. My latest Harlequin Superromance novel, His Rebel Heart, is on sale now! You can buy it for just $3.99 this month from Harlequin, Amazon, Barnes & NobleKobo, Google Play, and All Romance eBooks!

Can a rebel ever change his ways? 
Being a single mother and successful florist is tough, especially when your new next-door neighbor is the man who shattered your heart. Eight years ago, bad boy James Bracken walked away from Adrian Carlton…and their unborn child. Now he's back. And Adrian's desire to protect her son from the truth of his biological father isn't enough to hide the wild blue eyes of father and son, or to keep Adrian from surrendering to the raw passion between her and James. But is he truly the changed man he claims to be? Maybe this time his rebel heart really is home to stay.

When it comes to the safety and welfare of my books, I'm like Monica from Friends. The yellow gloves come on and the neurotic is unleashed upon the world.

I was once that person that took books in like strays from the street. If they didn’t have a home, people knew where to bring them—to my house where I would cram them in every empty nook and cranny I could find. My husband once opened a rarely used closet in the back of the house to put away Christmas decorations and was buried under the resulting avalanche of poor, rehabilitated paperbacks. He tried to tell me I had a problem, especially when I admitted that I hadn’t read all of them and there were several I probably would never get around to reading. “They have nowhere else to go,” I tried to tell him. “They’re not puppies,” he tried to tell me. Still, the man loves me. Despite the fact that hording in general and the sight of clutter makes him scratch, he’s put up with my neurotic book-related tendencies admirably well.

When mommy gets a box of books....
Then our son was born. Around his six-month birthday it became apparent that he loved books, too. In fact, he loved books so much, he ate them. He tore them. He threw them against the wall. The bigger the book, the better. To him in that first year of his life, there was nothing more satisfying than teething on the corner of a hardback. There was nothing that could make him giggle so much as shredding the pages of a mass market paperback. If I left a book I was reading anywhere within his reach, I would later find the bookmark a hundred or so pages forward or back from the place I had last read—and the bookmark itself would be tellingly damp. (Hey, at least he tried to put it back, right?) My love of books, that thing that had sustained me through tough times, butted heads with my devoted love and delight with my first child. Guess who won that little battle.

There was a shift. It started when he got a little older. The teething slowly died off (oh, thank goodness!) and the paper-shredding stopped. He liked his kiddie books, sure. But I noticed more and more that he liked to fan through the pages of my books, listening to the swish, smelling the lignin (that magic, vanilla-y scent that rouses every book lover), and watching all those words on all those pages merge together in one rushing wave. This thrilled me to pieces because I understood. This was once what I did. This was how my lifelong love of books was born so I was determined to encourage it. 

My boy and his books....

I went through my old paperbacks, riffled through boxes and closets and presented him with several of them to call his own. He’s almost three now. More than he loves being read to, even more than he loves the bright colors and fun pictures of his own library, he loves taking a few moments out of his day to spend with these old paperbacks. Every now and then, a page will rip by accident or I’ll have to throw one away because it got a little damp from a spill or the spine isn’t holding up to all the new handling from little hands. I learned to let go. I learned there are more important things than clinging to certain things, even my sacred books.


During the months of my second pregnancy, I went through my library. I sorted out of the books I truly loved, the books that I hadn’t read that I really wanted to read. I rearranged them on my shelves with loving care. The rest I put in two boxes – one for my little guy, another for the Salvation Army. I donated the latter. Those little hands wondrously devoured their new stack. My husband was tickled by the decluttering and the free space (which we desperately needed to put away all the baby boy things to make room for incoming baby girl things).

Story time with daddy....
Am I still a neurotic when it comes to my books? Absolutely. It might even be a little worse now because I know that all those books I have on my shelves, gated off to discourage kiddie activity, are special. Those are my collectibles, my keepers, my darlings. So when it comes to friends asking if I can loan them a certain title…there’s still hesitation. That’s how the Neurotic's Guide to Book-Borrowing came about….

On Twitter, I once discussed Kresley Cole's A Hunger Like No Other and absurdly felt the urge to mention that I'd loaned my copy out to a friend and hadn't seen it since. Those Lachlain fans threw righteous fireballs at my head. And rightly so. Some of the nicest people I know break spines and dog-ear pages (or have children like me who like books, too).

What's a book-lover to do? The following is the form potential borrowers must fill out before I'm able to decide whether or not to let them anywhere near my shelves. If you’re a book neurotic like me, I invite you to use it for your own purposes….

1)  List three references - including relation and phone number

2) Are you willing to submit to a background check?

3) Have you ever committed any of the following offenses: spine-breaking, dog-earring, or bathtub reading? (Note: Owner has the right to demand a polygraph.)

4) Do you agree not to eat while handling this book?

5) If the book is damaged, are you willing to pay for a replacement? In advance?

6) Do you agree to return this book within a two-week period?

7) Can you demonstrate how far you open a book to read it? Four inches? Five? (If you open it further, please stop filling out this form and refrain from speaking to me while I reevaluate our friendship.)

8) If a dispute over a borrowed book does arise, please keep in mind that owner has the right to utilize her attorney and will not hesitate to do so….

I know I'm not alone. Any other neurotic booklovers out there? Sound off, my friends!


Jannine Gallant said...

Hysterical, Amber. I also have a keeper shelf. Some I'll re-read again...and again. Others, probably not, but I can't seem to give them away. But nothing is more fun than seeing our own books lined up on those shelves! Best of luck with the new release!

Amber Leigh Williams said...

Jannine, I've reread the same book three times for the past year. It always makes me feel the same way and by the end of it I'm crying hysterically. Not sure why I keep doing it to myself. That's the magic of books, I suppose. And yes, I love seeing my books on the shelf with all the others. It makes me think that maybe my book does for someone else what those special keepers do for me. One can dream, yes?

Margo Hoornstra said...

Congratulations on your latest release. May you have many, many sales. I'm another one with book shelves FULL of books. It's so much easier to give them away. Don't think I've thrown a book away in my life. EVER. And, yes, having my own books among them is quite a thrill.

Rolynn Anderson said...

I've developed a new neurosis about books...after I read them I feel guilty when I don't have the time to write a review of them. We've all learned how important reviews are, after all! I've recently purged books from my shelves and gave them to the used book store and to a barista who is an English major. I have kept the classics, though I suspect I'll never read them again. In fact, I rarely re-read books. Still, I like the look of a well-stocked bookshelf. Hell, it's a design feature at the very least :-)

Amber Leigh Williams said...

Margo, thank you! It is hard letting go of books, but we definitely need space for other things. Our attics getting crowded, lol. Oh, and there's always room on my Kindle to cram as many books as I, or can afford :-)

Amber Leigh Williams said...

Rolynn, I love writing reviews! I always tell my family, friends, and readers that reviews are one of the greatest gifts they can give us as writers. And I love giving/loaning books to others, especially now that I've reached a point where letting go of them is easier.

Unknown said...

I am the member of three different book clubs and read 2-4 books a week (at least during the summer). Books adorn shelves in every room in my house. In order to continue to buy and read books I haven't explored but not to end up in a house where one must turn sideways in order to get past stacks in the halls, I have a firm rule I now abide by.

IF I am certain that I will not want to re-read a given book within the next twelve months, it goes into a large bag; when that bag is full, it goes to the library as a donation.

Then, as I begin to run out of bookshelf space, I reevaluate again and move certain books to that same bag (because I've inadvertently violated the above rule. This keeps my house looking more like a home and less like a librarian gone bonkers lives here! (Apologies to all librarians; I love you all!)

Diane Burton said...

I used to be like you. I didn't part with my books. Then came our latest (and last) move. No company to pick up the cost or reimburse us. We had to pay the freight. So we took boxes and boxes of books to our local library for their Once a month book sale. Downsizing our load and benefiting the library. A real win-win.

Best wishes on your new release.

Amber Leigh Williams said...

Kate, I was a book reviewer before my firstborn came along. I loved it and wish I still had the time for it. You're right, you do have to draw the line somewhere. My house was starting to look like a retirement home for crazy librarians. (My own apologies to librarians; you're all awesome!)

Amber Leigh Williams said...

Diane, I strongly believe in book donations! Our local library got me and my sister reading in the summertime as kids and we haven't stopped since.

Amber Leigh Williams said...
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