“Bookworm” is a general name for any insect that is said to bore through books. It’s also used to describe someone who loves to read books.

The damage to books that is commonly attributed to “bookworms” is, in truth, not caused by any species of worm. Usually responsible are the larvae of various types of insects including beetles, moths and cockroaches, which may bore or chew through books seeking food. Some such larvae may look like worms and are the likely inspiration for the term. In other cases, termites, carpenter ants, and wood-boring beetles will infest wooden shelves and later feed on books placed upon the shelves.

The figurative “bookworm” began as an insult, a negative term for someone who reads too much. Since Elizabethan times, the human bookworm has been looked upon with varying degrees of disapproval. Dramatist Ben Jonson, for example, in the 1600s, wrote of a “whore-son bookworm,” and in a 1717 letter describing his arrival at Oxford, poet Alexander Pope confessed to wanting “nothing but a black Gown and a Salary, to be as meer a Bookworm as any there.”

Noah Webster—from the lexicographer’s objective lens—saw the bookworm as being “attached to books” and, explicitly, “addicted to study.” He also questioned the bookworm’s taste—according to Webster, a bookworm was addicted to the act of reading, and didn’t necessarily care what was read (a bookworm was exactly the sort of person who might, for example, read the dictionary).

And what’s wrong with that? The dictionary is full of interesting words new to me.

Today, “bookworm” isn’t considered to be nearly as negative as it once was. Instead of being addicted to books, we’re devoted to them.

There is nothing better than opening the glossy cover of a book, feeling the paper pages, looking at the thousands of words printed on those pages ready to tell a magnificent story, smelling the bookish scent that comes with it. E-books don’t provide such a physical experience but, in either case, it’s the story that we find most important.

Going into a bookstore is both delightful and frustrating. There are shelves upon shelves of books, all with stories waiting to be discovered. That’s exciting, but how do you pick just one or two out of all those thousands?

Books are like loyal friends — always ready for the day you want to escape the real world. You open a book, begin to read, and slip into another universe.

Here are a few of the many signs that you are a bookworm. You bring two or more books on a trip, you can finish a book within a day, and you get so involved with fictional characters that they seem real to you. You may even want to write your own book. 

Writing a book takes a lot longer than reading one, but both activities take you into another universe. 

As to the “reading too much,” is that actually possible?

  One thought on “bookworm

  1. how9473
    October 18, 2020 at 7:16 am

    A perfect word. My favourite store is a book store. I get quite giddy with excitement on entering, and then panicky about how much I plan to buy. I love being the very first person to read a brand new book. We are blessed with a few fabulous book stores here on the southern end of Paradise Island with second hand options too. In our motor home we have a milk crate that we store our books in for a trip. And yes, you are right, nothing beats a book in your hands to read- it is for me one of life’s total pleasures.


  2. Leanne Taylor
    October 19, 2020 at 9:25 pm

    “reading too much”
    Is there really such a thing?!
    Surely not! :-))

    There’s a bookstore near us that was a bank in a former life. There are even books in the vault! What a great place for a treasure hunt!


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