What’s on your ideal bookshelf?

January 13, 2013

I’ve always been a bookworm and love everything about bookstores: shelves of words wise, funny and otherwise. The ability to pick a book up and flip through it, savoring the feel of the stock and the cover design.  Picking a page at random and scanning it for hints —would I enjoy it? Should I buy it?  And then, the author photo and bio–does she look like someone I’d want to talk to? Where does she live? What about her life does she choose to highlight?

A sad sight.

The Barnes and Noble down the street closed at the end of December, another casualty of the behemoth online retailer, Amazon. It grieves me to think about the day when bookstores no longer exist. And yet, I buy from Amazon quite a bit; it’s convenient and the savings are too significant to pass up. Yes, I still buy from brick and mortar bookstores–just not as much.

People here so overcome about the closing that EMS was needed.

At one time I kept every book I bought and had 30 boxes of them. I was fairly itinerant at that stage of my life and would have to pack and move them each time, until finally, my mother asked, “Are you still lugging all those books around?”

When I looked at my shelves, I realized that I could do without most of them. And so, I pared down significantly. I started taking books out of the library rather than purchase them.

About that time I went to a famous writing workshop. One of my workshop instructors was a real ass–and one of his great pronouncements was that folks shouldn’t go to libraries, but should buy books, instead. He was serious.

This author’s an ass.

I get that he wanted to make a living, but it still seemed such an asinine, let them eat cake comment.  And, he was very immature in the classroom, treating an older student so terribly that I never read another word he wrote.

But, since “retirement,” I’ve been buying books again. Sure, I go to the library, but Amazon’s one-click is easy–too easy. Dangerous, even.   I usually pass fiction along, but the nonfiction books still sit on my shelf.

And then, I saw this. My Ideal Bookshelf.

“The books that we choose to keep and display—let alone read—can say a lot about who we are and how we see ourselves.”

I stood in the store and parsed this sentence for a while.  I know that books are considered “decor” by some, and “no more than decor” by others. Leather-bound tomes in rich hues of burgundy, blue, green and brown sit on display for effect in some homes and are never removed for reading. I guess I never thought about books as part of any “display.”

Seems to me that what’s on our bookshelves provides clues to who we are–not sure it says “a lot.”  As far as “how we see ourselves”–I’m on the fence there. Again, it’s a partial clue to a person’s identity, but not the whole picture.

For example: I have many writing books on my bookshelves. And memoirs and travel books. A couple of anthologies. I have some great literature waiting to be read and some who knows if it’ll be good stuff there, too.  Even a book or two that I know is as far from literary as can be. A dictionary and thesaurus both preside, although it’s been years since I’ve used them; another artifact of the past. My shelves defy categorization.

So, maybe it’s true. My bookshelves say a lot about me.

So what’s on my ideal bookshelf?  I don’t have one. That is, what I’d like on my shelf at any given time depends on what I’m interested in at the moment. I can’t say that I consider any book “the best book I ever read”  or my “favorite.”

Books are like friends, at least to me. Something captures my interest and I appreciate them for what they are. Which might not be anyone else’s cup of tea. I might not want to spend more time with them, but I’m happy for the time we once shared and look back fondly on it.

Right now, my bookshelves hold about 30 books that I’ve still got to read.  Sutton, our January book group read is there, and The Moon and Sixpence by Maugham, our February book group read. Three books on India, because we’re going in November: Beyond the Beautiful ForeversShantaram (a novel), and A Blue Hand: the Beats in IndiaPrime Green: Remembering the 60s. A book of Judith Thurman’s essays called Cleopatra’s Nose. The Night Watch by Sarah Waters. Sylvia Plath’s poems. And so many more.

I just haven’t been able to get to them as often as I used to, now that I’m working again.

So I wonder–what’s on your ideal bookshelf?

5 comments on “What’s on your ideal bookshelf?
  1. On my ideal bookshelf would be all the L.FranK Baum Book with the original illustrations, all the Joyce Meyer books, a bible, a zillion cookbooks, the most recent Guiness Book of World Records, Billy Graham’s Angels book, “Co-Dependent No More” by Melanie Beatty, 1000 Places to See before I die, the rest I could just get from the library or read on line. (books are like friends to me too, I hate to get rid of them).

  2. Jennifer Comet Wagner says:

    I couldn’t pick an ideal bookshelf because I’m always discovering new books, authors and genres.

    Like you, I also love browsing bookstores and love the feel of books. However, I have had to switch to mostly ebooks now because I keep running out of room on my bookshelves, which I have many of. I find it very difficult to get rid of books.

  3. Being a historian and being knee-deep in the hoopla of writing my book on the American Revolution, I need to just turn around and gaze at the reference library behind me. My favorite authors being David McCullough, Jon Meacham, Joseph Ellis, Walter Isaacson, Carol Berkin, Richard Brookhiser, and my old Santa Cruz friend and inspiration – Dr. Page Smith. His two volume “People’s History of the American Revolution” is still the gold standard for period historians. Even though Doris Kearns Goodwin hasn’t tackled a book of the Founding Era, I still love some of her books and writing style. ***Surely there is room in life for BOTH libraries AND owning books!***

  4. Haralee says:

    I agree, Books are friends. So many books so little time to read is my problem. A friend just lent me a couple of books that she bought. She likes books and likes to share and it is not the same as electronically sharing!

  5. Janie Emaus says:

    My Barnes & Noble just closed too. So sad.

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