Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read. • Groucho Marx
My husband is my best friend. We celebrated our thirty-sixth anniversary at the end of March and as we sit here in bed reading this morning, I realize that our mutual bookishness helps sustain my love during those tough times when I’d just as soon stomp on his toes and push sharp objects under his fingernails as look at him. Of course, we also share a love of guacamole and movies and home-popped corn and artichokes and the garlic-that-can-never-be-too-much. Trips to the beach, camping in the redwoods, walks to the farmer’s market for tamales and just-fried donuts, and driving for hours to find a drive-in movie theatre are other things we both enjoy. But although these shared joys are certainly meaningful, as I count the things that really count, it is the books. Once the initial fires of attraction become the glow and occasional growl of ongoing companionship, a relationship needs something to sustain it. Books help.
If You Didn’t Love Books, Perhaps I Wouldn’t Love You
A Reflection On Marital Compatibility
You have packed and carried and moved and shelved hundreds—no thousands—of books in our years together, yet you never suggest that I let go of any of them.
You don’t really like thrift shopping, but you go with me. I can find you in the book section, leaning against a shelf, book in hand.
Waiting. And waiting. And waiting. I pay you back with the Hawaiian shirts I find.
You never complain as you carry my bags of books on the walk home from the store.
You stop at any bookstore I want to visit and you enjoy them too.
You don’t complain if I spend hours browsing the shelves.
I’ll find you somewhere, book in hand, patiently reading.
You step over books that are piled in almost every room in our house and never gripe.
You know that books are decorative, that they add to the soul of our home.
You love them too.
You don’t mind when I turn the staircases into extra bookshelves.
When we traveled across the country and back and our narrow sleeping space in the van was increasingly encroached upon by the boxes of books that were too heavy to ship home, you laughed with me as we rolled onto our sides to sleep. From behind, the van had a serious list to one side.
You enjoy many of the same books I do. Under our bed are boxes full of books ready for reading.
There are stacks of books on your side of the bed too.
We fill sacks with finished books to give away, but you understand that many books are keepers.
Much of our shared reading is cotton-candy and ephemeral, but although you are not an academic, you read serious stuff.
You love history and geography and can find rivers and mountains and strange lands whose names have changed and changed again.
I rely on you for daily briefings on current events and for your knowledge of the history of the countries involved.
You step over stacks of books and never say a word.
You understand that a home can never have too many bookshelves.
You help me make room for another.
You are a learner. I love that in a man. I love that in a person. I love that in myself. It is an ongoing joy that doesn’t cost anything, unless, of course, you buy a lot of books.
You never question the money I spend on books.
You like to go to the library with me.
You go to the library without me.
You carry my library books home.
You can fall asleep with the light on if you are ready to go to sleep and I am still reading.
You can sleep if I awaken in the night and turn the light on and need to read or write.
You were as excited as I was to find volume one of Mark Twain’s Autobiography discounted at a big box store.
And, of course, you like to read yourself into the day as much as I do.
You are reading right now, while I write this.
What sustains your relationships?
Books are the bees which carry the quickening pollen from one to another mind. • James Russell Lowell
No entertainment is so cheap as reading, nor any pleasure so lasting. • Mary Wortley Montagu