I remember that when I was a young teenager, I didn’t have a bookcase to call my own. My quickly growing stash of books had outgrown it’s box in the closet and was collecting in piles around my bedroom floor, covered by a sheet. It felt a shame. But in high school, my mom commissioned my uncle to build a hardwood bookcase just for me. It stands in my bedroom to this day, beauitful dark stain, six adjustable shelves, built in the simple Shaker style. My rows of books fill the shelves, some ragged paperbacks, and others of better quality with shiny gold lettering on their spines. I decorated the shelves with little objects that remind me of the books behind them… a castiron genie lamp (Arabian Nights), little clay Indian elephants (Around the World in 80 Days), little hedgehog knick knacks (Miss Potter), a little porcelain bunny (Watership Down).
I keep weeding out my collection but soon despite my best efforts my library will grow too big for my bookcase. I’m scheming on what to do next. I dream of a much bigger personal library, 5 bookcases of 6 shelves each, a shelf for each letter of the alphabet to alphabetize fiction authors’ names, and an extra bookcase for my nonfiction.
It’s all dreaming right now, of course, but I Iove the thought of a home library. Why? Because it’s just downright fun! It gives me a feeling of satisfaction, after having scoured and searched and picked and chosen which stories would belong to me, to see them lined up on my proud shelves.
There’s something about being the owner of books instead of just a borrower. Don’t get me wrong, I utilize my local library for all it’s worth, but at the end of three weeks’ time they go back to the public world. I’m most satisfied with knowing I own a book. Owning books is like owning land; I’m the richer for it.
When you walk into a person’s home and see their own collection of books, you can immediately pick up on their personality in a glance. What a person reads says a lot about them. All non fiction? All fiction? What kind of fiction? Adventure? Romance? Murder mysteries? (Watch you back!) It’s the same way with other people viewing your own books. What do your bookshelves bespeak of you?
I believe it is the act of a well-educated and cultured indivudual to own their own library. To be able to refer to a book at any given moment gives one the sense they own the world. It’s like an extension of one’s own life. Maybe we can’t actually do a million and one things in this life, but with books we can have a million lives and a bookcase is like a wood between the worlds, of sorts.
Did you know that books can be weapons? Why else did Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, and other totalitarian governments ban books? Because having an open mind with differing opinions threatens their control. So what happens when certain books are someday banned? Home libraries are the answer (hidden away, of course!). Call me a conspiracy theorist or a doomsday prepper, but these books are best collected before they’re banned. It’s up to us to decide what are the literary gems we want to keep for our own minds’ sake.
I should make note that having a home library on a kindle is not the same thing. I’m sorry, it’s just not! I’m not saying kindles are a bad thing, but the digital world cannot make up for the substantiality of physical books. They weren’t sought for at used book sales, or discovered glimmering like gems among the pickings at a thrift store, or received as delicious Christmas gifts, or handed down from a grandparent, or thoughtfully chosen by a friend. When things are gotten with ease, they aren’t as valued. Love and effort gives a thing worth. And you can’t see glittering spines catching the light of the setting sun at the window on an e-reader. A bookcase is like poetry, even if when it’s filled with prose.
So now I’m done with my romantic ramblings. I hope some of this inspires someone else to cull their own collection of books. Even if space is limited and confined to an apple crate or end table, it’s important to call some books your own.