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Unearthing the Bookworm: A Brief Overview of Librous animaeus

Loulwa Soweid By Loulwa Soweid Published on April 9, 2016

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Commonly referred to as the “bookworm,” Librous animaeus is a species of reader indigenous to every inhabited part of the globe where there are words to be read.

Taxonomy and etymology

The bookworm’s binomial name is derived from the Latin words libro, meaning book, and anima, meaning “soul.” Researchers are divided concerning whether their binomial name denotes “book-soul” or “soul of books,” though it is agreed that both terms are in reference to the fact that every book read by a bookworm imprints part of itself onto them, so that they ultimately become a reflection of all the books they have ever read.

Distribution and Habitat

Notably, bookworms are incredibly versatile, able to adapt quickly and efficiently to any habitat where there are paper pages and colorful spines lining book-shelves. Therefore, as mentioned previously, they are present on the global scale, and are especially abundant locally in locations such as bookstores and libraries. Some bookworms enjoy creating reading corners, or “book nooks,” in their homes, where they can safely retreat from stress and curl up surrounded by the written (or printed) word.

Biology and Behavior

During earlier stages of life, bookworms read less complicated words in larger fonts. They exhibit a steady rise in the amount and complexity of words they are able to read as they age, spending much of their time digesting words, phrases, idioms, similes, metaphors, paragraphs and chapters in order to enhance their skill. Many bookworms come to develop insatiable appetites, and in order to gratify their hunger, often collect and store a large number of books on bookshelves, in closets, stacked upon tables or distributed throughout their homes.

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Bookworms can spend up to hours reading without pause, sometimes finishing large amounts of material in a relatively short period of time. They often face indecision when encountered with numerous reading opportunities, and exhibit extreme irritation, lethargy, and a notable reduction in enthusiasm towards everyday activities when deprived of reading material.

Bookworms are equipped with a very keen sense of olfaction in order to instantly pick up the aroma of certain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as those released by the degradation of paper in old books or by the type of paper, ink and binding adhesives used in the manufacture of newer books, both of which create the trademark “book-smell”. They are hence extremely efficient at tracing the scent back to its book-source. Once finished with the target book, they must immediately begin searching for more words to read.

While not generally territorial, bookworms will, if interrupted when reading, become agitated and aggressive, although they will never actually cause bodily harm to the interrupter. When pausing from their reading to engage in socially-acceptable life behavior, they are usually restless and eager to return to their reading.

Notably, bookworms throughout history have also been authors. This, perhaps, is the most remarkable behavior of bookworms: their ability to produce the very things that sustain them.


Bookworms may suffer from eye fatigue due to reading too often, and may struggle with backaches from lugging around large volumes of literature in their backpacks. They are also at risk of paper-cuts as a result of their excitability when turning pages in an enthusiastic attempt to decipher the next plot-twist. However, none of these risks have proven to be life-threatening or potentially hazardous to the health of bookworms, as they have continued reading for long periods of time despite the discomfort it may cause.

Multiple authoritarian regimes that engage in book-burning or other forms of censorship unfortunately limit the material that bookworms are exposed to. However, bookworms are of least concern in terms of conservation status, as their sheer force of will to read has kept them far from the brink of extinction.


(note: while it is of the norm to find the description section at the beginning of the overview, I have chosen to place it at the end, so that this study will end on a conclusory note, much like the close of a good book)

Please note that while the bookworm has often been depicted in popular media as a literal worm with green skin and reading glasses (and, in a popular online game, is even pictured donning a bowtie and referred to by the name of “Lex”), it is not an actual worm.

Remarkably, bookworms can be of any length, width, shape, or color. They differ in preferred genre and language of book, time taken to finish chapters, number of times they reread their favorite sections, reading positions, book-holding positions, paper-turning methods and whether or not they opt for paperbacks or e-books.

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However, all subspecies of bookworm are drawn to stories, be they real or imagined, and they share the ability to form bonds with what to other species may look like nothing more than an inanimate object with words printed in it. In consequence, they are able to hold, and cherish, a symbiotic relationship with the books they read: without books, bookworms would cease to exist, but without bookworms, books would just be words with no one there to read them.

Psychology graduate with a love of all things literature, poetry and theater!

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