"Bibliophilia or bibliophilism is the love of books. Accordingly a bibliophile is an individual who loves books. A bookworm is someone who loves books for their content, or who otherwise loves reading. According to Arthur H. Minters the "private collecting of books was a fashion indulged in by many Romans, including Cicero and Atticus"." source: Wikipedia
Even before I could read I loved books. We would walk over to our local branch of the library in a small storefront building and the kind, grandmotherly librarian, Mrs. Robbins, would take us downstairs for story hour. She was my first mentor in loving books. When another librarian would substitute for her, it just wasn't the same.
My aunt would take my cousin and I to the Children's Library across town before I was in kindergarten. It was near the "real" library in Library Square downtown. (Imagine: a city giving its library an entire city block with a parklike setting...) The Children's Library was in an old church building. It was so exciting to go up to the balcony to look at more books and peek over the railing at the rest of the shelves. I remember it as being a kind of children's book wonderland.
Later, my sisters and I would walk to the branch library ourselves, braving urban traffic on busy streets to get there. Every summer they would have a book challenge, and we would actually have to stand at the counter and report on the books that we read. I would usually fill out several challenge sheets and collect more than one pin to verify that I had completed the challenge. But these were not badges of honor in my neighborhood, they just labeled you a bookworm.
I remember days when I would finish a book and come outside to find a sparkling sunshine kind of day, and realize how much of the day I had missed. So, when I was in 7th grade, I made a conscious decision: I will begin living in the real world so I don't miss so much. I no longer allowed myself to live in the world of imagination and books, thinking about characters and plot lines all day long. I still read, I still wrote, but not in the all consuming way I had before.
Looking back, it was a mistake. Reality paled in comparison to my inner life with books. Imagination will win every time. I returned to my old ways when I was 25 and life had given me a situation that was hard to cope with. I soothed myself by reading a compilation of stories by James Herriot every night before I went to sleep. It saved me at that time.
*Booknotes interview with Nicholas Basbanes on A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes and the Eternal Passion for Books, October 15, 1995.