Friday, 1 April 2011
Are you the sort of person who checks out other people’s bookshelves?
(Do you feel an immediate affinity with those people who love the same books that you do?)
Earlier this week I had dinner in a lovely home. The sitting room had nearly all of the attributes of an attractive, cosy room: a wood-burning fire, soft sofas, interesting pictures, ancient (but good) carpets . . . but sadly, no bookshelves. I noticed it right away, and the absence somehow detracted.
Are you the type who believes that bookshelves are not only useful, but also beautiful?
(Furthermore, would you add this proviso: that the books must be obviously read and enjoyed . . . and not merely decorative?)
I’ve just counted:
Eight of the rooms in our house have bookshelves, and all of those shelves are overflowing.
In the recent de-cluttering drive, I managed (not without some pain and suffering) to take about five bags of books to the charity shop. Sadly, it didn’t make any visible difference to the crowded conditions as most of the discarded books had been stacked on the floor, hidden under the bed or crammed in my daughter’s closet. In our next house, I am hoping for entire walls of bookshelves.
(One commonality I’ve noticed about Oxford houses is that they tend to contain lots of books. Considering the ever-present temptation – there are a lot of bookstores in that small city -- I predict that an increase in my personal book collection is inevitable.)
There are public bookshelves and there are private bookshelves; some more so than others.
I don’t have what I think of as “properly” public bookshelves: nothing leather-bound or colour-coordinated; no first editions; no careful artistic groupings. Sadly, my bookshelves do not reach such lofty heights as would require a ladder. My “best” bookshelves do look more substantial, though. In their ranks you will see my nicer hardbacks, the lovely cloth-bound fairytales that I inherited from my father, the sturdy biographies and histories, and those books of a philosophical nature. My private bookshelves are junkier, and more various. Here lie the paperbacks, but also the most frequently read favourites.
Can a bookshelf be read like a palm, like a face, like a narrative of its own?
The pictured bookshelf is in my study – and in front of the shelf of enduring favourites (my Austens, Brontes, Colwins and Mitfords), you will find stacks of what I have read or written about recently.
There are also cards and curios, pictures and postcards . . . remembrances, really. When I think of the phrase “surrounded by my things,” I immediately think of books.
If you would like to share a glimpse of one of your bookshelves, please contact Malena of The Bookshelf Project. firstname.lastname@example.org