Sunday, 8 August 2010

The books I own do reflect me.

Thanks to Eva over at A Striped Armchair, I know what I want to write about tonight. She posted today about her home library, an idea she found on a new-to-me blog: The Boston Bibliophile, who has a series she is writing on what having a home library means to her, and what she wants to see in hers. I coincidentally had read a post at Book Chase that ended with his thoughts on what having a home library means to him. So, as we are waiting on our 2 new bookshelves to be delivered, and as I stare at the piles of books on the floor and shelves, patiently waiting for their turn to have a permanent shelf to call their own, I think it's a good time to talk about what I want my home library to be.

I Need Books
I have always wanted a home library. By the time I was 10, I had a long, long row of books that stretched along the floor, that were all mine. I think I have always collected books, though I have lost and let go of so many over the years. Whenever I moved, my suitcase would be half-filled with clothing, and the other half was books. When I moved to England, the books I couldn't part with were divided into the necessary few I flew with, and the rest were sent by slow mail. I still managed to give away over half of the books I owned then, something I am still learning from and about. Because as soon as I landed in England, and indeed after we came back to Canada, I started replacing the books I'd given away, or realizing that in many cases, I did want to reread them after all. It was a big lesson for me, both because I learned I can let go of most books - but not all. There are some books that have a permanent place with me. One day I'll do a post about those books! I also learned that books can be replaced, and that my idea of success is to fill my home with books. In all the phases of my life, books have been present, and I could not, cannot, feel at home in a house that does not have any books.

What kind of library - now, that is the interesting question, I think. Both Eva and Marie talk about what kind of books they have, and ask what you think a home library should be. Please let them know, and let me know also, as I'm curious: how many of us have home libraries? what kind of books do we collect? Do you collect with a purpose, or is it haphazard? How do you arrange your shelves?

I have to say that I am haphazard - I don't collect first editions, hard covers hurt my back to carry, and I buy a lot of books second-hand. Saying that, my fiction shelf is alphabetical, and my non-fiction books are all arranged by category: fairy tales and myths, history, travel, health, biography, gardening, cooking, dreams and psychology, astrology, writing, nature and science.......kind of like the dewey decimal system of arrangement, without the hassle of having numbers! Because I worked for so many years in bookstores, I was used to sorting them into categories, and it's how I find books the easiest.

That's all the mechanics of having a home library. What I'm really interested in is the soul of the home library. How many books of yours have you read? Why did you buy them? what does this book or that book mean to you? I find it's the stories we tell about why we bought books, if it was easy , or a discovery, or we had to special order it, or if it was a gift, that tells us what kind of library we have.

The Book Tour of my house
So if you take all my categories I listed above and pretend you have come into my home for a visit, what are you likely to see? First you're going to see the 4 shelves behind the sofa, in the reading area I am building. That's the fiction area. I've read almost half of those books. This is the area I fuss over the most, and where I have the unhoused piles waiting for their new home. Over by the television area are three more shelves, housing most of the non-fiction, as well as my TBR books that I have separated as books I want to read now/soon. The TBR bookshelf picture is on my sidebar. They sit beside me here at the computer. I often look at them and dream of when I can get to them, and fuss around and rearrange them for challenges I am currently working through. My husband and I share the history and travel books, and they sit closest to the tv, where we can pull out the atlas when the kids ask a geography question.

Next room is the kitchen, and I have two shelves filled with cookbooks. I love reading recipes. My sister asked me once if I read everything, including the authors' notes before recipes, and if I read cookbooks all the way through, and I was surprised. Of course I do! It was the first time I realized that my mother and I are similar in this, and my sister isn't.

My Little Creative Room
My most private books, astrology, quilting, tarot, writing and spirituality, are all upstairs in my craft room. This is a tiny room that could be a huge built-in closet, though by now you know if it's a choice between using the space for clothing or books, I'd choose books. When I first saw the room, I knew it would be my writing room one day. I have my quilting supplies stashed away, so it's not all set up yet. Funnily enough, I need some storage space for all the material I have collected! I find that the colours of quilting inspire me and help me write, though I'm not sure of how this works yet! I go in every day, and I guess thinking about it now, it would be my inspiration room. Poetry used to be here, but as I've been reading and buying more recently, that has moved downstairs. I think I want to show off that I am reading poetry and what - who - I love.

What the books I have say about me......
I think this idea of showing off what I love is important to me in the books I do have. For a long time when I was going to university, there was a pretentiousness I felt in carrying around classics and 'literature', that I've slowly learned to let go of. I do want to appear intelligent, but not because I'm carrying or reading or own the 'right' books, but because I've read them and I can discuss ideas intelligently. So while I'm proud of my books that I own, I'm also really shy about them, because they do reflect me, my personality and my tastes, now. To come into my home and see my books is to see me.

The Plan
My library is semi-organized. By this I mean, I have only recently attempted to make lists of books I am missing to have complete sets, and to really plan a permanent shelving plan. I would love to have built-in shelves in my house, and that is my secret dream for our house. To have a fireplace, and shelves built in on either side, and then up over doorways and wall to wall. I can't think of a prettier, interesting, and happier home to be in.

So that gives you an idea of where I am in my home library stage. Where are you? Do you spend time looking at books for ideas on how to shelve your books? Do you dream of a home library that fills your home with what you love, and what books would those be? Would your home spill over with books, or would they be tidy and a few shelves of the ones you love the very most?

My home library
At the back of my mind, I've always wanted a home library that meant I could find at my fingertips, in my own home, the answers to questions I wanted, or the next book to read. I think I want it all here, a copy of every book I've ever read and loved, as well as ones I think I'm likely to love when I do read them.

The children of course, all have bookshelves now too, in their bedrooms, though my son (the 21 year old) and the daughter are showing a tendency to pile books they are reading near where they happen to sit. I think they take after me. Even with all our shelves, we all have piles of books that we are looking at. And I forgot to mention that I don't have a space for the library books I've borrowed, so they are in a stack on the floor.........I think this would be called the mess of life, and I really wouldn't have it any other way.

So that's where I am in my home library stage. As I get pictures of the various areas, I'll post them, because the next best thing to being in someone's home and examining their shelves, is seeing pictures of their shelves!

I hope you have a happy Sunday reading, and thinking about your home library.

16 comments:

Rhinoa said...

I love the sound of all your book shelves. I've never read a cook book all the way through but then I don't do so much cooking at the moment! I have a semi organised library. I'm starting to run out of room again though and not sure we have space for any more bookshelves. In our bedroom hubby has a bookcase and I have 2. Mine is my favourite authors in one (Charles de Lint, Anne Rice, Maragret Atwood etc) and the other is fantasy. In the hall I have one case for Arthurian Fiction and Fairy Tales and a second for teen fiction. I have a third for graphic novels and manga but need to figure out a new solution for manga as I have too much now. In the back room is all my magical and craft related books where visitors don't see them. In the little corridor are all my urban fantasy/vampire fiction and the shevles are completely overflowing! The front room hubby has another case and I have 2. One has fiction and the other horror, sci fi, science and poety. Most authors are together and in series order but are not alphabetical. It's a bit of a mish mash and I need more shelves relaly...

章鱼 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Molly said...

Lovely, thought-provoking post!

The desription of your creativity room sounds a lot like my "nook" and while I do not sew, the colored paper for my scrapbooking hobby provides that same soothing and inspirational environment as well.

I look forward to reading that post about all those books that have a permanent place in your life :)

Have a great week, Susan!

Jeane said...

Wonderful to read of all your bookshelves! I too have a need to keep books, and to look at them often. My collection is pretty haphazard too, as I buy lots of used books so they are in varying degress of quality (binding) and condition- but they are all loved!

Susan said...

Rhinoa: Your home sounds so full of books, and I love it! lol I like it that you have it organized by genre too, it makes the books easier to find, doesn't it? when you have books shelves everywhere like that. Your library sounds like you have books in every nook and cranny, which is the best way, I think :-)

Molly: yes, the little room could almost be a nook! I know so many people who do scrapbooking, including a co-worker who makes gorgeous cards. What do you make? I think whatever we do, if it is creative, then it does inspire other parts of our creative lives too. You'll have to post a picture or two, and I notice you didn't say much about your own books! lol

Jeane: I'm delighted that we both love getting books second-hand, it's lovely to meet people who love books no matter if someone has read them before. There are so many treasures in used book stores, I find. I love the well-loved, well-read look as well. I wonder if a post on books we love, and comparing to a good copy, would be a fun one to do? I like how you put that you have a need to look at them, that's a nice way of putting it, and very true. Thanks! :-)

TEST said...

Hi! I just start reading English Books, and I just finished "the lost symbol",and start Harry Potter 1, I find that some books are written in complex English that might be a little difficult for me. So could you recommend some interesting books that use simpler language? THANKS!

By the way, I love your blog!

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Betty K said...

My own library is not in my home, but just down the road in the local city library. I can go there for hours, or just to pick up items that are on hold for me. I can browse online and place orders for titles mentioned by friends, or fellow bloggers, Book Sense, Indiebooks, USA Today Thursday bestsellers, etc, and all those audio books to keep me company in the car. I've been rereading old favorites and classics this summer. Soothing reads.

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GeraniumCat said...

Because we moved way too many books into a smaller house, my books aren't in any sort of order at all - now they are all just fighting for space with all the junk that we've accrued in 30-something years (I'm married to a squirrel, he can't throw anything away, however useless). But I do mostly know where the books I've bought since we moved here are, even though they are two-deep on the shelves. So it's more of a book horde than a library, I'm afraid :)

Daphne said...

What a fantastic post! We are in the process of buying our first house and I will have an art room; we are trying to decide where the library will go. So much fun!!

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Julia Smith said...

I have definitely always wanted to have a home library. Every time I see pictures of big, classic ones from stately homes, I get all swoony! I'm certain that my husband's tendency to have piles of books around him at all times was a big attraction for me, romantically-speaking.

Susan said...

Test: Try some Diana Wynne Jones for easier to read fantasy books. The Lives of Christopher Chant is a very good one to start with.

BettyK: I am using the library more now too, to read the books that are interesting but that I can't find (out of print usually), or if it's a new author to me. I love libraries too. They are a wonderful place to spend some time, aren't they?

GeraniumCat: book horde! lol I think that would still be considered a library. I know many people who do that, double-shelve their books. I've tried, and I hate it. I have to admit I want to be able to see every single book I've bought, and I do enjoy looking at them. That said, we are shortly going to start having to put shelves in unusual places!

Daphne: I went to look at the pictures of your new house from your blog, and it looks lovely. I'm keen to see where you put your library too! You'll have to post pictures when you get in. It is fun, isn't it? This is my first home, too, I've always rented before.

Josh: thanks, will come and take a look.

Julia: Oh, I know what you mean, I get all swoony at any pictures of shelves and books! lol I do especially love whole rooms filled with books, and the stately homes do it best, don't they? I like how you loved your husband because he had piles of books around him. A definite attractive quality, a man who reads! :-D