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Just what exactly would a book geek do, if one won the lottery?

Honestly, I might well start a bookstore. Except it would be an awesome bookstore. There would be a new section, a used book section, and there would be classes somewhere in book-binding, old-style press printing, and even manuscript illumination if I could find someone able to teach it. Papyrus-making. The works.

The bookstore part would look like a Hogwarts set, and there’d be tourist attractions like ‘Print your own “WANTED” poster!’ going on to lure people in and get them to buy books, read books, and play with books. There would be absolutely effing zero kitschy cushion displays and God-awful scented candles that smell of the wide-open chemical vats.

…I realised at this point in my daydream that I was probably a book geek. Possibly even a book junkie. Don’t judge me.

I got hooked very young. I remember reading those truly terrible ‘Learn to read’ books from Ladybird – ‘Peter and Jane saw a BUTTERFLY!!’ is permanently scarred into my long-term memory from those – before my third birthday. I’d graduated to Barbar the Elephant and Wind in the Willows before age four, and George MacDonald Fraser and J.R.R. Tolkien by seven (explains a lot, if you think about it…).

Not completely illogically, one of my few fond memories of boarding school was the library. First, it was generally avoided and abhorred by the cool kids, and as a bonus, it was full of books. It was also in the oldest part of the school, and had been put together sometime in the 1800s. Some of the books dated from then as well. Before anyone asks, if there were ghosts I never saw them.

To keep the books that weren’t actually antique, but were falling apart, in shape, a book binder would come in every so often, and open up a room which was normally locked. In there was all the paraphernalia needed to stitch and bind books, and if you showed a capacity to sit still and not break things, he would teach you book binding. Beyond the lure of being something to do with books that I hadn’t known existed, book-binding also wasn’t one of the school-approved ‘hobbies’ we had to spend 90 minutes doing on Saturday afternoons, like silk-painting, or photography. While it didn’t get me out of those, it did interest me much more.

Shortly after I met the book binder (dayum, there should be a horror story in that line), I started surreptitiously writing. Very surreptitiously, in the back of classrooms as the balled-up bits of paper and flying elastic bands of an orderly academic environment ricocheted around me, and under my covers by torchlight after lights-out.

These days, I publish my books electronically, and most of my readers buy them electronically, but I’ve never quite lost that fascination with seeing a heap of pages turn into orderly sheaves, get stitched together, and gradually get turned into a book.

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