The Inspired Teacher: Book buying addiction

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The author says his ‘happy place’ is a bookstore, which is much to be desired in Fiji. Picture: WWW.PEXELS.COM

Who else has this same compulsion — and a pile of unread books?

Let’s start a club.

On our last trip to the US last Christmas, I told my wife I had an important appointment.

And told my granddaughter to drive me to the Barnes and Noble bookshop.

I went like a man on a mission before she could say anything.

I felt guilty about lying to her but if I told her the truth, she would have stopped me.

It’s been six days since I last purchased a book.

I love to read.

No doubt you also do; after all, you are reading an article about reading.

I read a diverse range of genres and authors.

I am always reading several books at the same time – mostly non-fiction.

If I had my way, I would have a book by my bed, a book beside the couch that I read between Netflix episodes or while waiting for lunch.

I am tempted to have a book in the toilet but my books are too precious to be forced into the horrors inflicted there.

According to Harvard Health, ‘dopamine is most notably involved in helping us feel pleasure as part of the brain’s reward system.

Sex, shopping, cookies baking in the oven – all these things can trigger dopamine release or a dopamine rush.’

But the scientists at Harvard Health neglected to mention the pleasure of walking into a bookstore and perusing the shelves.

The smell of a new book and the sight of a cover of Trump in agony are my dopamine triggers.

Bookstores are my happy place.

I would love to check out the local bookstores – sadly there are none.

We do not even have libraries in so many towns and the books that the libraries do have in Nadi, Lautoka and Suva leave much to be desired.

I believe Nalini Singh is the only Fijian who is a New York Times best-selling author.

She has written quite a few books but one would be hard-pressed to find any of her books in Fiji.

The USP library is the only decent library in Fiji and Elizabeth Fong should get credit for that.

My wife and I used to go to the US every Christmas.

But the pandemic prevented us for three years.

Thank God for Kindle though nothing is as pleasurable as holding a book in your hands.

Of course, on most trips, I will purchase several new books.

I’ll peruse the shelves looking for a book that catches my eye.

I read the blurb and then head to the book lover’s bible – Goodreads.

Or the reviews on Amazon.

I’ll see how the book is rated by others and use that to guide my buying decision.

When we come back to Fiji, I take the book to my office, I flick through it.

It then goes into a special section of my bookcase — the section To Be Read.

And that’s where my problem is.

At first, this was a small section consisting of a few books.

Then it was an entire shelf.

Then it entered my entire bookcase.

My To Be Read section was growing out of control.

Finally, one day I counted my unread books, which were embarrassingly high.

It was then that I asked myself, ‘Do I have a book-buying problem?’

Am I addicted to buying books?

The anticipation of an unread story of Trump being arrested?

Am I no longer a book reader but merely a book buyer?

Why do I ask myself so many questions?

It led me to try and break the pattern.

I made a vow to go cold turkey.

No more buying books for a few months.

Instead, I would go to the Nadi library.

It was cheaper and would stop me from buying books I wouldn’t read.

For a while, it worked.

I didn’t buy any books.

I stopped looking at the Amazon website.

Instead, I would visit the library each week and try to recreate my bookstore experience.

It wasn’t the same.

The selection was poor.

The books there were old and smelled terrible.

Some had smears of food — or other things on them.

So I decided to try another tactic.

No buying books.

No borrowing books.

I would work my way through my unread books at my office.

I use the accounting principle FIFO (first in, first out).

I started with the books that were in my office for the longest time and donated them to the Nadi library.

My books have a stamp – ‘This book belongs to Arvind Mani’ with my phone number.

Occasionally I will get a call from someone to thank me.

I have a few more boxes and magazines to give away.

When I go the US, the little shot of dopamine returns at the airport in Los Angeles while waiting to go to San Francisco, the independent bookstores in Palo Alto and SF, the Fremont Library where I used to go to participate in speech competitions or be a judge at the Toastmaster events.

I have made considerable inroads in my unread books, it’s down to a manageable level.

I still visit the Devia Bookshop when possible – it makes a trip to the Nadi town far more tolerable.

Also the owner is a good friend of mine.

I’ve come to accept my shopping addiction.

There are worse things to be addicted to.

We are going to the US later in April for my eldest daughter’s 50th birthday.

I have marked a few bookstores in cities we are visiting – Sacramento, Walnut Creek and Elk Grove.

On our last trip, my daughter took us to the quaint little city of Sonoma which had none of the fast-food places and a magnificent
bookshop.

I might need to pay for some excess baggage coming home.

It’s a small price to pay for the pleasure of reading a good book.

I will also have to contend with my wife’s yelling – but I wear tiny earplugs.

She does not know about them and thinks I am hard of hearing.

It is also helpful when she is asking me to do chores.

 

• ARVIND MANI is a former teacher who is passionate about quality education. He lived in the US for 35 years and was actively involved in training youths to improve their speaking skills. The views expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of this newspaper. He can be reached at theinspiredteacher9@gmail.com 

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