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I am quite simply addicted to books -- hopelessly, lovingly and unabashedly.

From the time that my mother taught me to read long before I entered school, I discovered new worlds, new people and new locales in libraries that were all mine at the drop of a skinny little card. I read so well that school officials wanted me to skip the second grade, an idea that was thwarted by my father, who recognized that while I could read pretty darned well, I couldn’t add or subtract worth a toot.

Over the years, I have never not had a library card. Of all the many places I’ve lived, in the United States and overseas, I have made applying for a library card one of my priorities. I’ve been known to spend hours in perusing the aisles, finding places at ancient, long library tables to turn the pages in a book that I’ve found on, say, seashells or how best to attract cardinals to one’s yard.

In one country, I even landed a job in the military post library, preparing new books to enter the system. It is also where I fell in love with the smell of ink in new books. Giving these books their new lives was thoughtful and meaningful work to me, anointing them with the appropriate Dewey Decimal numbers, protecting their covers with carefully applied cellophane, typing the check-out due date cards.

Bookstores that I find all across the country allure and attract me, the aroma of ink tantalizingly enticing me to – come on – step through the doors for just a bit. That “bit” easily turns into long minutes and, sometimes, hours as I find yet another book to peruse, to peek into for something new, interesting and unknown. I have frequently bought books on, for instance, trips to various places when I already knew I had oodles at home to read. What was that about? What is it that called me to add yet another tome to my collection? Was it the pages? How about the smell of this particular edition? Was it the mystery of something not yet known?

Over the years, through a multitude of moves, I’ve been forced to reduce the size of my growing and, sometimes, formidable libraries. I’ve had garage sales that held many tables of many -- er, books; I've given special ones away to particular people who had either admired or had an interest in a specific book; and, with increasing frequency, I've added to the inventory of lots of local libraries. Some remain permanently ensconced on my bookshelves. Many of these are signed copies, one of which was personally signed almost 20 years ago by Maya Angelou, another especially personalized by Lily Ledbetter.

These are treasured friends offering warm words that encourage and comfort me and -- oh, look! The library is holding a book sale!!!

Bonnie Allmon Coffey has a smaller library these days, but it’s chock full of books with stories themselves. She covets her volumes by Nick Bantock and her Mother’s Bible that holds a photo of 2-day-old Journey, the great-granddaughter who died when she was a smidge over a year old. Bonnie’s library card is extremely well-used.



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