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Nancy Okerlund
Volume 4, Issue 3, 03/25/10

"What Shall I Do With All My Books?"

A couple days ago I was looking for pictures of famous introverts, for a Powerpoint presentation I'm creating. I found a beauty - of Abraham Lincoln sitting in a chair, a young boy standing next to him. They're both focused on a big book Lincoln is paging through on his lap. They seem engrossed. There's a quiet introvert air about it.

It got me thinking about introverts and books.

I, myself, am addicted to books. Years ago I typed up an excerpt from something - I have no idea of the source - that starts out, "'What shall I do with all my books?' was the question. 'Read them,' sobered the questioner. 'But if you cannot read them, at any rate handle them, and, as it were, fondle them...'"

It gives permission to read a sentence here, a sentence there, to arrange your books how you like them, to keep track of them and "'....if they cannot be your friends, let them at any rate be your acquaintances....'"

I hang onto this excerpt for reassurance.

I grew up in a house full of books (with two introverted parents.) And one of my strongest memories of visiting my grandparents every summer is of the floor to ceiling wall of books in their living room. It seemed gigantic.

I wasn't just surrounded by books - I read them. I grew to depend on them for stimulation and inspiration, living on the edge of town in our little house on the prairie, pastures and fields right out the back door.

I think it was a good combination for my young introvert self - easy access to good reading and the big quietness of the prairie right out the door. A balance to the almost constant extroversion of life in the middle of lots of sisters and brothers.

I guess introverts are blessed when it comes to books. The blood flow in our brains takes a path that spends a lot of time up in the front, a complex territory that loves information and making sense of it.

Introvert brains can (truly) spend endless amounts of time imagining, generating ideas, playing with options, making plans, rehearsing scenarios, thinking and thinking and thinking. We get "hap hits" (chemical "hits of happiness") from it, all without moving an inch. No wonder I'm addicted to books - endless material for what my brain likes to do.

(Extrovert brains get their hap hits much easier from having their senses stimulated - doing things, not just thinking about them.)

But of course addiction has its dark side. When I was a kid, there were books - so I read them. These many years later, it's more complex.

Books are small - there's always room for one more :-). It's said that extroverts tend to have more friends than introverts. That extroverts will consider someone a friend an introvert might call an acquaintance.

For me with books it's the opposite. Be a book of the right subject (and there are many) and you can be my friend. Even after five minutes :-).

So I live with hundreds of friends (and more are on the way, no doubt.) But I don't take my friendships lightly. Sometimes it makes being in a crowd of strangers feel like a relief!

I enjoy my books for their very presence, for the possibility they hold - to inform me, comfort me, surprise me, stimulate me, support me. To keep me connected to the big pulse of life.

I go to that excerpt to reassure me, first of all, that it's a fine thing to be so in love with books. But also to remind me that my hundreds of friends are patient, not at all offended by the word "acquaintance", and always happy to be fondled.

End of food for thought, onto a practical idea:

A Practical Idea for Introverts

Think about you and books - are they your friends? If they are, spend a little time fondling them and see what you notice.

A Practical Idea for Extroverts

Be curious about you and reading. (I know extroverts who are voracious readers). What do you like about it? What don't you like about it?

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