Friday, May 22, 2015

Are Avid Readers "Suffering" from a Compulsive Behavior Disorder?

I'm just thinking out loud here, so bear with me for a minute.

Are all/most avid readers, the ones who read anywhere from something like 75 to several hundred books per year, victims of some sort of compulsive behavior disorder?  If so, I suppose that the consolation is that it is a rather healthy one compared to folks who are addicted to gambling, pornography, or washing their hands hundreds of times a day.

And if so, would anyone "suffering" the disorder actually choose to be cured of it?  I know that I would not.

I believe that book lovers are born, not made, that if the book-loving-gene is not present at birth, there is very little possibility that a person can be transformed into someone who reads every day of the year.  Now, that's not to say that a born book lover cannot be fine tuned into a "super" book reader, one of those 200-books-a-year types.  My theory is that those lucky enough to live in a home filled with books and people who take obvious pleasure from reading them will almost alwyas dedicate more and more of their own personal time to reading.  But turning someone who has no desire to pick up a book into someone who reads even 26 of them a year?  That's a miracle, my friend.

So.  Are you the "victim" of a compulsive behavior disorder that demands that you read every day...and more importantly, that you read as many books per year as you possibly can?


  • Are you compelled to read a certain number of pages per day?
  • Are you compelled to read at least one more book this year than you read last year?
  • Do you eat lunch alone so that you can read?
  • Do you read while brushing your teeth because no one can possibly expect you to talk then?
  • Do you carry a spare book in your car at all times?
  • Do you read in bank lines, in doctors' offices, and anyplace that will require you to wait in a line for even five minutes at a time?
  • Have you actually started looking forward to the down-times where you are forced to wait for service so that you can sneak in a little reading time?
  • Do you keep a book on the front seat of your car that you can grab while stopped at exceptionally long traffic lights?
  • Are you always looking for the next great read?
  • Are you a daily book-blogger?
  • Do you follow twenty or thirty other book blogs and consider all twenty or thirty of the bloggers to be personal friends of yours?
  • Do you sometimes find yourself secretly competing with your friends to see who can read the most books in a given year?
And that's just a start.

If you answered yes to more than one or two of these questions, you might be a "compulsive reader."  And, I'm willing to bet that you have been this way for most of your life.

And I whole heartedly applaud your efforts.  Keep up the good work.


  1. I fear I am a compulsive reader. There are good points and bad points to this disorder. On the negative side, for me personally, is that reading compulsively means reading a lot of stuff that isn't very good, just because I MUST read. I often prefer books to real people. I'm afraid I won't have enough to read and become anxious if unable to find something to engage me (and it doesn't take much, as I read a lot of poor to mediocre books). On the positive side, I become captivated by synchronicity--connections between books. Currently, I've had several coincidental connections, among books about WWII. Real characters mentioned in fiction that lead me to research more. For example, Moe Berg was mentioned in Agent ZigZag (nonfiction) and in two fictional works recently. You, as a baseball fan, are probably familiar with Moe Berg, but I wasn't, and Googling led me to be amazed at this unusual and talented ball player, O.S.S. operative, Princeton and Colombia graduate, and master of seven languages. He only receives a line or so in Agent ZigZag and in the fictional works, but seeing him come up a couple of times in recent reads aroused my curiosity. Love that kind of thing.

    1. We seem to agree that being a compulsive reader is not necessarily a bad thing. When I start to feel bad about all the hours I spend reading, all I have to do is remind myself that if I had not been reading I would likely have totally wasted the time watching some mindless television program or just puttering around doing nothing.

      I'll take the reading anytime.

      Like you, too, I think that one of the biggest benefit of all that reading is being sent off on little sidetracks that end up taking you to places and people you would not likely ever have heard about if you had not stumbled upon something about them in an obscure book or two. I love the kind of fiction that intersperses real life characters with fictional ones, and I often come away from such a book curious enough about a real life person or incident to find a book or two dedicated to them.

      Moe Berg is a great example. I had a similar experience when I saw Pete Gray mentioned in a couple of books, never dreaming that the one-armed outfielder really played major league baseball during WWII when so many better ballplayers were in the military. Then I stumbled upon the fact that a Houston city councilman had played on one of the teams with him...and that he was happy to talk about him with me. We corresponded a bit about those days and it was like walking back into a period of time I would never have even wondered about unless I had seen Gray's name in a single paragraph of a book I was reading.

      No, compulsive reading is NOT a bad thing. :-)

  2. I read a lot, generally between 60-70 books a year, but I am not a compulsive reader. There are plenty of times when I don't feel like reading or plain don't want to. I enjoy many other activities in addition to reading and while I am doing them -- gardening or biking for instance -- I am not thinking about books or how much I'd really like to be reading instead. I'm pretty sure that even if I didn't have a full time job that I would not spend all my time reading.

    1. Ah, a healthy avid reader. Thanks for your response. No, you don't exhibit any of the signs that I would classify as compulsive at all. The way it works for me is that even though I have lots of other interests (baseball, walking, traveling, music, movies, etc.) I never feel that my day is complete unless I spend a pretty solid chunk of it reading. And when I'm at my busiest, I find myself reading in five-minute bits and pieces just so that by the end of the day I can look back and get that feeling of accomplishment. It's hard to explain that feeling without using a term like "compulsive." But I've been that way for so long that it's all become very normal for me. Not real sure, though, what those looking at my reading habit from the outside see or think...