A plan to book down to Cannon Beach sparked a realization that stopped me in my tracks. I should be arrested. I have not yet returned a book on loan from a friend there.

Sure, when kindly allowing me to borrow it, he had told me, "not to worry, no hurry" about giving it back. But that was more than a year and a half ago.

Yes, I should be arrested - by police, or librarians, or responsible borrowers - and they should throw the book at me.

In my defense, I can only plead insanity in the form of bibliomania (exacerbated by a persistent case of forgetfulness). I love books and surrounding myself with books, even if the price is a painful recognition that ever more books in my midst means ever more books to read.

There lies the problem. No matter how fast or diligently I turn the pages, buying or borrowing another book always takes less time than the act of reading it.

Maybe I'm particularly sensitive to the futility of such an endless cycle these days. If there's a catch, I've caught it. At the moment, I'm reading Joseph Heller's "Catch-22."

Include in my overall love of books my reluctance to relinquish them in general, and you have in your hands a problem as big as a Russian novel (to say nothing of the problems of big Russian generals). This perspective holds true even after I've read the books. Besides the pleasant feel and aesthetic appeal of a classic leather-bound tome - the look of a book - I love to roam inside them, to search for and re-explore favorite passages.

It does not exactly make matters easier to share a home with a fellow book lover, and one who receives a discount when buying books because she sells them for a living. To accommodate our combined collection we have bought three bookcases ... so far.

I may find myself challenged to plead my book case in light of the burgeoning life and activity of spring. Cold and wet days of winter practically invite the act of hunkering down in a quiet, cozy spot with a good book to read, while the sheer beautiful outdoor vibrancy, warmth and color of spring - not to mention all of the energy uncoiled from loads of leftover Easter candy - inspires nearly everyone to engage in physical activity. People are planting seeds in their gardens, sweeping sand from their steps and moving their bodies from their couches and cars, even walking to places they want to go.

But after all this gardening, sweeping and strolling, people will seek restful things to do, too. A few will opt to switch off the TV and read a book - and now, if they want, they can do so at the park, or on the beach, or on the freshly swept porch.

Sometimes reading material can even be found while on the move. The other day I literally stumbled across a paraphrase of an 1862 quote from Henry David Thoreau. Someone had written the words in yellow chalk on the sidewalk.

"So we saunter, till one day the sun shall perchance shine into our minds and hearts and light up our whole lives with a great awakening light, as warm and serene and golden as on a bankside in autumn."

In so doing, this someone had brightened my day - and made me want to search for my copy of "Walden."

Of course I realize a related spring activity in which I can engage is to return the books I have borrowed. Among them is a classic science fiction novel from a friend in Seaside, a series of hilarious Spike Milligan paperbacks on loan from my sister-in-law, and a mesmerizing biography about Franz Anton Mesmer from the local public library. I have already read that biography but kept renewing it because I wanted to re-read one section in particular.

Then there is the book from Cannon Beach, a fascinating compilation of first-hand accounts of events through 24 centuries that shaped civilization - a book that, if I may say, lends itself to borrowing for a long time because it can be digested in little, independent literary bites at a time.

I guess it really is hard for me to get rid of books - even ones I do not own. But I will return them. One of the nice things about borrowing a book is the bond it reinforces, the tacit agreement that I will see the lender again (albeit sometimes later than intended) to finally return it. And when that happens, of course, I might have a chance of borrowing another one.

Then again, in light of the time I allow to elapse, those who lend me books might want me thrown in jail. Maybe there, at last, I might have time to catch up on my reading.

Brad Bolchunos says he is only kidding when talking about borrowing books to such a criminal degree, and he would not want people to read too much into it.


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