I was called this in high school, along with worse names. It had something to do with my love for books, how I would rather curl up in the stacks in the Pasay City Adventist Academy library, reading what were called “mission stories”, ’50s books on feminine deportment and hygiene with quaint sketches on how to properly put on a brassiere, and everything that I could find on ancient Egypt, while my classmates were playing volleyball and gossiping and forging strong relationships that for some remain to this day.
I’ve always been a loner. I’m not anti-social – I have hundreds of acquaintances, a great many friends, and a few very close ones. But I often preferred to spend my time reading rather than doing something else. My relationships were with fictional or historical characters, with facts and romance and adventure, and with the fancies of my own imagination.
Here are some of the books on my bedside table. Most of them I read in 2008.
They shouldn’t be stacked up on my night stand like this. They should be in the bookcases in the living room. But there isn’t any more room on the shelves, where books are crammed two-deep. Others are piled against the wall.
The books used to be in the living room, but now they have invaded my bedroom, sprouting against the walls like fungi.
This stack rests under the a/c in my bedroom. Another stack is by the long mirror next to the closet. A third one is…hmm, I’d better stop here.
Do I mind the disorganization and chaos, like a bookshop exploded in my home? No, because (one) I made the mess myself; (two) the books make me feel comfortable and somehow safe. A house without books will never be a home for me. When I enter other people’s residences and I cannot find a single codex or publication, the hairs on the back of my neck and arms rise. I am not kidding. I cannot imagine how one can live without reading. For me is essential and necessary to sustain life, like eating and breathing.
Yes, I exaggerate somewhat. But I think of my worst nightmares, my greatest fears, and living in a world without books is close to the top of the list.
We are fortunate to live in a country where the press is (relatively) free and the Internet is uncensored and there are many bookstores that offer a wide assortment from around the world. There are places on this planet where there are no books, or what they have is heavily censored and many other titles are suppressed, where the Internet and publications are fiercely monitored by state-appointed censors who block websites or black out nude people’s private parts on magazine pages with a marker.
There are places on this planet where women are not taught to read.
There are places on this planet where no one can read.
Let’s not waste our freedom to access information.