Bibliophobia: A Better Excuse Than My Dog Ate My Homework!
My daughter was sent home from school the other day with a letter from her teacher stating she had not been doing her
homework and could I look into the matter. When confronted, my daughter claimed she was suffering from Bibliophobia,
or a fear of books. I guess it's a better excuse than "My dog ate my homework".
When I was young, I was well known for my ability to stare anyone down without laughing first. My daughter seems to
have inherited this unique ability as well. I can't even say Bibliophobia with a straight face; much less use it as an excuse
for why I didn't do my homework… or my taxes properly.
My daughter said that in fact this was a very real and very serious condition; she had even seen a video about it on
YouTube. Note to self: Investigate what this "YouTube" is that everyone keeps talking about.
Anyway, as Dr. Phil would most likely advise, I demanded that she look her fear in the face and tackle it head on. I wasn't
so sure this was going to fly with her after our little "I'm afraid of thunder and I want to sleep in the bed with you - no, go
face your fears - lightning strike mishap", but I gave it a shot anyway and demanded she do a "book report" on
Bibliophobia…kind of ironic, huh?
I told her she had to do the research the way I had to as a kid. No Internet, no Google, no Wikipedia. Nope, I broke out
the old Encyclopedia Britannica stored away in our dusty attic and made her confront her fear. "No Internet", she cried in
horror. "This is child abuse, I'm texting the authorities!"
Note to self: Google what this "Texting" is I keep hearing about.
I must admit that I was quite surprised with what she came up after Social Services had left and she got down to writing
her report. She certainly made me think about Bibliophobia more than I thought was possible, or more accurately, the
definition of Bibliophobia.
In the dictionary, Bibliophobia is defined as a fear of books. My daughter thought a better definition would be: a fear of
what books may do. After I heard her explanation as to why, I told her Mr. Webster himself would probably agree it was a
more accurate definition. She told me her teacher's name was Mr. Thorne, not Mr. Webster…again with the straight face.
I let the comment slide for the moment and focused on her report. She began by quoting George Orwell from his book
1984…"He who controls the past controls the future; he who controls the present controls the past."
She went on to explain how nearly every conquering army and regime throughout recorded time had destroyed libraries
full of history and culture with zealous efficiency. They were indeed…"afraid of books" that contained the history of those
In 1562, a Franciscan Friar ordered Spanish troops in Mexico to burn thousands of Mayan hieroglyphic books and
effectively erased in one day nearly the entire record of a civilization in order to pave the way for Christianity.
In 1914, the German army, after invading the Belgian city of Louvain, burned the cities magnificent library of more than
300,000 volumes and more than 1,000 irreplaceable enlightened manuscripts to the ground in no act of military
significance at all.
In 1975, Cambodia leader Pol Pot ordered the destruction of nearly all of Cambodia's manuscripts and monuments. The
Khmer Rouge regime went so far as to examine ordinary citizens for tell tale marks left on their nose from reading
glasses, a crime punishable by death.
And most recently, the Taliban wiped out and erased nearly every written trace of non-fundamentalist Afghan culture.
I could tell that this little exercise of mine had a profound impact on my daughter. She even asked if she could keep the
encyclopedias in her room; she said they had a comforting smell. I told her that was mildew, but that I understood how
she was feeling..what was new to her was nostalgic for me, Ahh, the never ending irony of my life.
I apologize for my light approach to this article subject matter, but it's necessary for me to find humor in life. Phobias are
a form of Anxiety Disorder of which I'm intimately familiar, and it certainly takes more than just "facing your fears" to
Forcing myself into an elevator or to climb onto the roof of my home has only succeeded in irritating the guy's down at the
Firehouse… seems cat's get better treatment than humans when stuck in high places!
Anyway, if you would like to check out the YouTube video I referenced or view a complete list of Phobias, of which there
are hundreds, you can go to my website. And yes, as technically challenged as I am, I do have a website…thanks to my
lazy, Bibliophobic daughter.