Mixed Marriage

My husband and I have a mixed marriage when it comes to our attitudes about our books.

I tend to only want to buy new books when I have already read it and want to own it, its a favorite author, or my daughter asks for it.

My husband will buy a new book at the drop of a hat. He takes risks on authors he’s heard of in passing, or based on reviews, or even browsing. I have a hard time buying a completely unknown book unless its used.  I don’t begrudge a penny spent on any book, new or used, I’m just pointing our the difference in our acquisition habits.

Now I’ve discovered we have differing views and habits about the library as well.

When I was a kid summer was all about riding my bike to the library and checking out the maximum number of books at once and reading until my vision went blurry. A particular childhood bliss impossible to recapture.

I racked up a lot of fines in those days with little money to pay them. I remember getting my sister to check out books for me when my card was blocked and then ultimately, I am ashamed to admit, posing as my twin and getting a second library card. My card used my childhood nickname, “Amy”, so I got a new one posing as my sister “Amanda”. I probably still owe on some of those books.

Even though our house is overflowing with books, both purchased and from the library, my husband and I rarely read the same ones. We recommend authors to each other which are regularly, if politely, ignored.

For example he will read biographies, which don’t hold my interest beyond the photos. I can only remember finishing two so far, “The Life of Johnson” (assigned) and Diane Rehm’s “Finding my Voice” (don’t remember why).

So while he can’t quite get into Octavia Butler or Plato, I have yet to enjoy Melville.

Currently, on his recommendation, I’m reading (and enjoying) the Nick Hornby book Ten Years in the Tub: A Decade of Soaking in Great Books. There is quote that nicely sums up the underpinnings of our booky household for all three of us –

“All the books we own, both read and unread, are the fullest expression of self we have at our disposal … With each passing year, and with each whimsical purchase, our libraries become more and more able to articulate who we are, whether we read the books or not.”

We are our books and our books are us. 17707873

What brought the mixed marriage of our “book personalities” into sharp focus for me was an argument we had recently about library books. The Hornby book I mentioned is from the library. He checked it out, finished reading it, and now I am reading it.

And then it came due before I was finished. I told him to renew it, but he wanted to return it in case someone else is waiting for it.

Now that I can renew with the click of my phone app, as opposed to the old in-person system of my misspent youth, I regularly renew books up to the five renewal limit if I am still using them. And then I pay the fee if they are late.

I think of it as rental. Five cents a day is worth every penny for me to finish a book I haven’t yet decided to buy.

Mr. Man’s attitude is that the due date is a social compact with the library, so you should return your materials. He thinks I’m wrong to see the fees as rental. I say I’m helping the library buy more books with my fines. I see no harm in my practice. Which makes him indignant.

I confess this may be a case for a higher moral authority. Does Judge John Hodgman make house calls? Can he be objective about this kind of mixed marriage? Maybe the Head Librarian of the Library of Congress can weigh in?

Meanwhile, I think I’ll pay my library fines before they freeze my card…

Old books