The Failed Rehabilitation of a Bookaholic


by Ramon Presson (a repost from the Williamson Herald. Originally posted on: 8/11/2011)

What do the DoDo bird, Lindsay Lohan’s acting career, and Pontiac have in common?  Yes, they’re all extinct. And now I’m fearful that bookstores may join the list – the sad roster of institutions like

record stores and video stores, linked with the outdated likes of clothes pins, manual typewriters, and kids actually playing outside.

I resonate with the lament of my friend Terry Thompson who said, “When the government pledged to secure our borders, I thought they meant the bookstore.” Forget the government, I did my part. With the Cool Springs Borders just five minutes from my office, I was such a regular customer that I was on a first name basis with the staff. I was like Norm in the Cheers bar. I walked in and employees and customers shouted in unison “Raaaaaaamon.”  I received weekly e-mail coupons and I felt a patriotic duty to use them.  For me, letting a 30 percent off coupon go to waste was like leaving an unopened pint of Haagen-Dazs out on the counter to just melt.

I’m a recovering bookaholic. Well, that’s a bit overstated—I’m not really recovering much. The support group meets at the local library, which is like an AA group meeting at a bar. Actually my wife is glad that I’ve rediscovered the local library, as now some of the money that was once regularly spent on books is now going to some local worthy causes, such as shoes and school lunches for my children.

I’ve been guilty of hiding newly purchased books like some people hide their bottles and flasks. I’ve waited until family was preoccupied upstairs, and then snuck outside in the darkness to retrieve a brown-bagged hardcover from the trunk of my car. I have unread books sitting on the floor of my study as if in an eternal waiting room, lined up on bookshelves in an endless traffic jam for my attention.

Oh, I can quit anytime. I’ve quit hundreds of times. (How many different sponsors have I had now?) I bought a Kindle thinking that might help. Do you have any idea how many free books there are in the universe available for download? Just the other day I knew I couldn’t live without a copy of “The Complete History of Wheat Flour.”

That’s part of the problem. I’m always thinking, “I’ll have just one more book. This is the last one I’ll buy until 2015…or until next week. But then I’ll receive a Borders coupon, a gift card to Barnes & Noble (thank God for enablers) or see book reviews on Amazon, and next thing I know I’m off the wagon and in the gutter with a Grisham novel or Seth Godin business book.

With Border’s announcement of bankruptcy and all stores being shuttered, I remained at home for a week in a blended funk of grief and denial. Last Thursday I finally went to the closing Brentwood store, like a person who puts off going to see a really sick friend in the hospital. You know you should go but the scene and the reality is just so difficult to face. Instead of bringing flowers I bought books on clearance and group hugged staff and total strangers. Then I went to see Joel at Landmark Booksellers and let him console and counsel me. He had the perfect book for me. I think I’m going to need weekly sessions.

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Nashville newspaper columnist, Ramon Presson, is Tennessee’s most published marriage & family therapist and author of a dozen books including his newest When Will My Life Not Suck? Authentic Hope for the Disillusionedwebsite: Ramon Presson

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