75 Signs You’re a Bibliophile

October 10th, 2005

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We consider ourselves perched on the precipice of culture. Worshippers of the written word. Titans of tomes. Lovers of literature. We swarm the world with a voracious hunger cured only by sufficient mental and creative stimulation. We are in your office. We are in your schools. We may even be in your homes. You may even be one of us…

1. You actually completed an English degree.

Only a true bibliophile can survive 4-7 years of being told exactly how to interpret Finnegan’s Wake by a bearded, bespectacled man in a tweed jacket with leather elbow patches.

2. You actually started said English degree for reasons other than “Heathcliff is OMG HOT!”

And if you graduated with an English degree still thinking that Heathcliff is OMG HOT, then probably you should not go straight into a career. Probably you need to spend a brief stint in a mental institution.

3. Harold Bloom actually makes sense.

You will be a bibliophile for the ages if you actually develop a viable drinking game based on any of his works. English majors around the world will erect a statue in your honor. Assuming they actually have the money for it, which they don’t.

4. You’ve actually used the term “hack writer” unironically…

…and probably in reference to Stephanie Meyer as well. “Hack writer” is the literary connoisseur’s equivalent of “sellout” in the music industry. Not in terms of concept, of course, but rather when it comes to expressing status through terminology that’s both highly pretentious and embarrassingly true.

5. You fight to diversify the literary canon.

Great writing can come from anyone, anywhere. And a true bibliophile knows that the real literary canon is made up of far more than just a bunch of dead, high strung white guys. Oh, they contributed alright! But they are not the entirety.

6. You often find yourself wondering about whatever happened to Zadie Smith.

She’s still around, just not as prolific as the literati would like. Being a parent does that sometimes.

7. You have a little vein in your forehead that throbs whenever you hear about sparkly vampires.

If Sheridan Le Fanu and Bram Stoker came back to life and found out what became of their genuinely horrifying creations, they would probably crawl back into their graves and beg for the swift, cold mercy of death once more.

8. You laughed at the Thomas Pynchon episode of The Simpsons.

Because you got the jokes, of course. Not because you were pretending to get the jokes just to seem all intellectual.

9. Your loved ones tire of you spouting clichéd “The book was better” diatribes.

But you know better. Yes, yes you do. It’s not your fault the philistines haven’t picked up a work of fine literature since the Carter administration!

10. When other people incorrectly use the term “postmodernism,” a little portion of your soul disappears forever in a puff of suicidal depression.

Just because a work of art existed in the postmodern period does not inherently make it an adherent to the movement’s tenets!!

11. You have a crush on David Sedaris or Sarah Vowell.

It is a well-documented phenomenon that all modern-day bibliophiles find their hearts set aflutter at the mere mention of either David Sedaris or Sarah Vowell. You can’t argue with this statement. It’s science.

12. You have ardently argued that comic books deserve to be considered literature on par with more “acceptable” formats like short stories and novels.

And anyone who disagrees will likely be converted to your mindset after reading Maus, Watchmen, Persepolis or a volume of American Splendor.

13. Seeing “Based on the bestselling novel by…” in a movie trailer makes you dizzy.

Step outside, take a deep breath and sink $12 on a small Sprite to settle your stomach. It’ll all be over soon.

14. You’d read in the car if you could.

Some of the more daring bibliophiles amongst us are probably guilty of sneaking in a page or 2 at red lights…

15. Better yet, you take public transportation for reasons other than cost and the environment.

Because trains, buses and subways afford oh-so-much reading time that would otherwise be spent behind the wheel of a boring ol’ car.

16. Used, local and specialty bookstores are your kryptonite.

After a certain point, taking up crystal meth as a hobby may actually be kinder to one’s wallet than bibliophilia. But books don’t turn your teeth into pumice, which generally tips one’s favor towards the more expensive pursuit.

17. The New York Times Review of Books is among your browser bookmarks.

Even if their opinions boil your blood with the white-hot fury of a thousand supernovas, you still pop onto the site regularly to stay on top of the latest news and trends in the literary world.

18. You start a book blog just for the ARCs.

Setting up shop as an online literary critic opens the doors to receiving free books in the mail from eager publicists and authors who want to hear your opinions on what you did and did not like about them!

19. You ? your local library.

Whether you volunteer your time, money or old books, you do whatever you can to spread your love of the library and its myriad opportunities faster than Barry Allen on a caffeine bender.

20. You find Belle the least offensive of the Disney princesses.

Sure, she teaches young women about the joys of miring yourself in Stockholm syndrome! But she does enjoy reading and intellectual pursuits, which makes her slightly less misogynistic than the other aggressively marketed Disney ladies.

21. You know what the thunderclap that heralded the fall of Adam and Eve sounds like.

Bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk!!!

22. You own a cat, a grand selection of tea and/or coffee, an all-purpose tote bag for shopping (that may or may not be constructed of post-consumer recycled products), a knitting habit or some combination thereof.

For some reason, every passionate literary connoisseur inevitably possesses one or more of those 4 items. Nobody knows why. Not even science.

23. You know very well that used book stores are not where stimulating reads go to die.

It’s a cliché to compare used bookstores to finding diamonds in the rough and treasures in the sands and princes among frogs…but it’s actually the most apt way to describe a visit. Great books certainly do crop up while slogging through bubbleheaded swill by Meg Cabot and Sophie Kinsella.

24. Oprah’s Book Club makes you want to destroy something beautiful.

Sure she encourages her flock to pick up undeniable classics like The Color Purple, Song of Solomon and East of Eden, but these were already well-respected works. As much as she poses, Oprah never actually had a hand in discovering the writers OR their novels. When she’s left to her own devices, A Million Little Pieces happens.

25. Substance abuse seems glamorous and edgy.

William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway both won the Nobel Prize in spite of possessing livers that looked like the Toxic Avenger. Hunter S. Thompson must have managed to score the Teddy Roosevelt of immune systems, because that’s just about the only reasonable explanation regarding his ability to stay out of the hospital and get work done. All brilliant literary figures…all suffering from very serious psychological issues that needed addressing. Substance abuse should be considered a wrenching tragedy, not a writing strategy.

26. You actually know the difference between you’re/your, they’re/their/there and it’s/its.

And you deserve a pat on the back for it! Just don’t get cocky and start correcting everyone else in a condescending tone, OK?

27. You feel an overwhelmingly compelling need to refer to every cockroach you encounter as “Gregor.”

Bibliophiles living in Houston especially struggle with this problem.

28. The social events you look forward to most either involve the library, readings or lectures.

And why not? They’re excellent networking opportunities that provide great insight into an author’s beliefs and creative processes – not to mention exposure to exciting new literature! Plus, it’s a great way to meet cute boys and girls in sweater-vests.

29. You really, really relate to that one Twilight Zone episode with Burgess Meredith.

The ending probably wrenched your heart out, grilled it up on a George Foreman, slapped it in a blender and forced it all down your panicking throat, didn’t it?

30. You think Kindles, Nooks, iPads and other electronic books take a little something away from the reading experience.

Just kidding! That actually makes you a Luddite.

31. You long to attend the Bloomsday Festival.

It really is a great event, and any bibliophile with the resources to hit up Dublin on June 16th would do well to attend. Even if Joyce isn’t your thing, it’s still very worthwhile, largely gratis and highly literate fun.

32. You know that irony is not rain on your wedding day or a free ride, but you’ve already paid.

Irony is selling an heirloom pocket watch to purchase beautiful combs for your wife’s luscious hair, only to find out she cut it and bought you a chain for the timepiece with the money. But who would have thought it figured?

33. Your solutions to any sociopolitical problem inevitably involve references to eating babies.

If a peer gets the reference and laughs, you are in good company. If a peer does not get the reference and laughs, you probably should examine his or her motives first before judging them a sociopath. They could just be harmless internet denizens in their downtime.

34. You prefer the term “erotica.”

Anaïs Nin certainly possessed enviable writing talent worthy of study and inclusion on numerous “Best of…” lists. But even if you slap a more elegant, euphamistic label on it, porn is still porn.

35. You worship Mignon Fogarty.

She is the one woman preventing the English language from devolving entirely into YouTube comments.

36. You’ve read the Bible, even though you’re not Christian.

Much of the “Western” literary canon built itself upon Christianity’s teachings, and a familiarity with them definitely renders the entirety of the Medieval period almost comprehensible.

37. You participate in LibriVox (or similar organization).

LibriVox and its ilk bring bibliophiles together to record public domain or licensed works of literature so that the visually impaired can enjoy them! All of them make for ideal volunteering opportunities for book junkies.

38. You know that Iceberg Slim is not a frozen cigarette that sank the Titanic.

Granted, most people probably wouldn’t think that anyways. But you get the idea.

39. You appreciate the Coen Brothers more than most people.

The Coen Brothers are the Talking Heads of the film industry – whip smart, undeniably legendary and highly, highly literate.

40. You actually read the included supplementary material.

To you, the forwards, afterwards and essays included in a volume deserve careful perusal just as much as the actual novels themselves.

41. The word “abridged” gives you a migraine.

Or, alternately, it sends you into an unstoppable rant about how abridging a story compromises the author’s original intent – even if the author him- or herself approved of the changes in the first place!

42. You love incorporating books into your home décor.

Some of the more intense cases among you may pick out tomes you love with covers that convey the specific aesthetic you desire. The bibliophiliac community is split over interior designers who construct furniture and other decorative items out of old books.

43. NPR holds a special place in your heart.

Not everyone agrees with NPR’s politics, but bibliophiles of all types flock to NPR’s reviews, interviews and news regarding the latest and greatest works of literary art.

44. You have one specific genre or subgenre that you absolutely hate and avoid at all costs.

And you know you hate it because you have actually read several books from the genre at hand. Right?

45. Broken spines seem almost like injuries.

More serious bibliophiles tend to anthropomorphize their collections on occasion, and breaking the spines of books almost makes them weep in empathy for its pain.

46. You sell your clothes and other possessions before you sell your books.

When bibliophiles need a little extra money quickly, they’d much rather dump their clothes and other necessities onto resale shops instead of hauling a load to a local shop specializing in used volumes.

47. You hate moving.

Not because you’re antisocial or agoraphobic, but because packing and unpacking hundreds – if not thousands – of books is a real pain in the patootie.

48. You’re reluctant to lend out your books.

Sure, you want to nurture a love and appreciation of the written word in your friends and loved ones. But what if they bend the spine? What if they dogear the pages? WHAT IF THEY SPILL COFFEE ON IT?!?! OH GOD THE THOUGHT OF IT JUST KILLS ME!!!

49. You consider dogearing a sacrilege.

Though a venial sin compared to the mortal offense of breaking a book’s spine, dogearing still compromises its delicate structure.

50. You never walk out of a bookstore empty-handed.

Even if you walk into a bookstore with no particular purchase in mind, you always seem to throw down the debit card for something that popped out. Always. Invariably.

51. You usually carry around 2 books at a time.

Because you never know when you’ll find yourself with some welcome free time. Unfortunately, said welcome free time may mean you finish your current read and need to start up on its follow-up.

52. Most of your volunteer work involves literacy.

When they want to give back to the community, most passionate bibliophiles look for charitable organizations that involve teaching people how to read, distributing books at shelters, reading to the elderly or blind and other literary causes.

53. When library hours get slashed, you faint like a Victorian lady listening to a bawdy story about ankle exposure.

Sadly, many libraries across the world have been forced to scale back their hours due to budget cuts. Bibliophiles responded to the news by contracting the vapors, and many sustained unfortunate head injuries as they crumpled to the floor in grief.

54. You spend hours upon hours browsing TVTropes.org.

Don’t let the name fool you – TVTropes.org dissects storytelling, plot and character devices from ALL media. Prepare to lose significant expanses of time once you discover what people have written about your favorite books.

55. You got grounded often as a kid.

Not because you were an ill-behaved demon child, but rather because your parents always caught you huddled beneath your blankets with a flashlight in one hand and a book in the other. Also it was 2 AM. Also you had a math test the next morning.

56. You know that the answer to life, the universe and everything is 42.

You also know how to properly mix a pan-galactic gargle blaster and the importance of bringing a towel with you wherever you go.

57. You can tell the difference between British and American English…

It’s a lot more than just “colour” vs. “color,” and you know it! Bonus points for any readers able to pick out Canadian English without any external hints.

58. …yet you frequently write in a blend of both.

Hey, it happens. Bibliophiles who pull double-duty as writers oftentimes find themselves merging grammatical and spelling conventions from British and American English without even realizing it. Kind of like Madonna’s accent, only not faked for attention.

59. You don’t take an iPod to the gym.

No amount of Lady Gaga’s warbling can get you up and moving quite like a favored book. There’s a reason why treadmills often come with a mechanism to support a chosen read…

60. You didn’t join a book club…you started one.

And you actually set up said book club so participants actually read rather than guzzle down wine, gossip about how Betty’s wife left her for a nubile young flight attendant and discuss why Mr. Darcy is OMG HOT and why every man ever should just drop everything and be him.

61. When walking through heavily-wooded areas, you are often disappointed to find no sign of the Ents.

A talking tree?! Are you mad?!

62. Every kid in your English class hated you.

It wasn’t out of pretentiousness that you always had the right answer or a viable alternate character interpretation! Honest! Relax. You’re among good company here, though. We believe you.

63. You enjoy reading the more obscure works in a popular writer’s oeuvre.

Even in the (frequent) incidents when a renowned literary figure’s best works remain the most popular, bibliophiles still love delving into their lesser-known writings with the burning desire to discover overlooked treasures.

64. You eagerly hope that future generations of humans grow beaks and seal-like flippers after evolving from shipwreck victims stranded on an isolated island.

(See what I did there?)

65. Someone always gives you a fancy bookmark as a gift every year…

Bibliophiles are actually quite easy to shop for, provided you don’t actually buy them books (they’re particular, you know). Just buy them a lovely, fancy bookmark for their birthdays and watch the gratitude unfold.

66. …and you usually use 2-4 at a time.

Many bibliophiles suffer from a particular form of ADD unique to their kind. Rather than reading 1 book at a time, they often have a multitude of different books going simultaneously. Usually this has to do with a read corresponding to a particular mood, though not infrequently do literature junkies simply grow too excited to wait.

67. You have a hard time eating sausage.

Thanks, Upton Sinclair!

68. Friends and family think you’re crazy for re-reading certain books.

At least once in his or her life, someone close to a bibliophile has honestly inquired as to why he or she feels the need to read literary works more than once. This is usually accompanied by a concerned, though rarely condescending, tone of voice. The same tone of voice parents usually use when asking teenagers if they’re on drugs.

If it hasn’t happened to you yet, it will.

69. You used to spend recess reading.

Leave dodgeball to the troglodytes! There are worlds to explore! People to meet! Establishments to fight!

70. You are conflicted over the thought of writing on the pages.

Taking notes inside a book itself saves both paper and time. But it also starts cluttering up the pages and making re-reads much more difficult. This is a very serious issue that divides families and friends, if not individuals themselves.

71. You own multiple editions of the same book.

This also includes multiple translations of the same book as well. You know you’ve done it at least once. Don’t lie to me!

72. You go out of your way to place writers and their works into the proper context in order to best understand the book at hand.

Had Ignatius Rising not come out, nobody would have been able to figure out that John Kennedy Toole struggled with his sexuality and possessed mommy issues rivaled only by Buster Bluth.

73. You critically refer to the British as “imperialists.”

After exposure to enough postcolonialism, everyone does. Even some of the British. This mindset also applies to the Dutch, European-Americans and Spanish as well, depending on the literature consumed.

74. You know how to get away with (axe) murder.

Be a gravely poor former law student, possess altruistic intentions and spend 532 pages wallowing in existential torment regarding a spiritual status extremely similar to – yea, frequently misunderstood for – Nietzsche’s theory of the Übermensch.

75. You really, really, really, really, really, really, really like books.

At the end of the day, isn’t that more or less the literal definition of “bibliophile” when translated from the original Greek?

There’s no need to be afraid. You’re certainly not flying solo on this frequently bleak chunk of metal rocketing through an expansive, lonely cosmos. Just relax and embrace who you are, what you are. We certainly love you for it.



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