Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bookshelf Fantasy

"I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves. "--Anna Quindlen

I know plenty of people who are content to check a book out of the library, read it, and return it. Some are patient enough to put their names on a waiting list there for a particular title, content to wait until it returns. Others that I know buy paperbacks by the dozens, read them, then pass them along to schools or to Goodwill.

I have a strange and wonderful relationship with my books. I'm not particularly fussy about whether they are hardback or paperback, new or used. I do collect a number of signed first editions, which for future value should be hardback, but I also buy plenty of paperbacks from used bookstores or from half.com. Most often, I want to keep them after I am finished. I love to lend them to friends, but I also hope for their safe return.

About the time we moved to this house, I left my position teaching high school in a spacious room with a whole wall of shelves I had accumulated over the years. When I moved to the community college, I had a cubicle in the bullpen I shared with five other instructors. I gave away some books--sharing YA novels with the new teacher I had mentored, passing on duplicates, and such. Most, however, came home in boxes and have moved from my garage to the attic. My husband has been frustrated by the clutter; I have been frustrated when trying unsuccessfully to find any one particular book.

Over the last two weeks, we have (or at least our carpenter/painter has) completed a wall of new bookshelves in an alcove of the master bedroom. If the daughter on Father of the Bride was disappointed with a blender from her beloved, I hate to think how she would have responded to bookshelves. I couldn't be more delighted.

Now I am trying to establish a system I can maintain. Do I separate fiction from nonfiction? Books read from those unread? Should I organize by author or by theme? My other shelves in our home office will retain the books I use specifically for teaching. I have my worn mass market paperbacks there. (Many have my name pencilled in from high school or college. Some I have loved and taught repeatedly are rubberbanded. These maybe less picture perfect, but they have character--and history.) My oversized books have a place there too.

I'm taking my time filling the new shelves, moving books from the attic not by the boxload but by armfuls, like a mama cat with her kittens. I look forward next to having time to sit down and read.

**Here, too, is my contribution to "Teaser Tuesdays":

from The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaimann:

"You failed, Jack. You were meant to take care of them all. That included the baby. Especially the baby."



Amber O said...

Oooh, they're beautiful! I am trying to train myself to be a library girl (and doing pretty well at it lately), but deep down I still want to hoard my books. Even if I never read them again, I like to walk by and brush my fingers across their spines and say, "I know you."

Unknown said...

I separate mine by nonfiction, loosely grouped by subject. Then all fiction is alpha by author.

Gorgeous shelves, BTW. Jealous!