A bolt of uneasiness flashed through my chest when I saw this photo:
Really? Do people really use books that are kept like this? Do these tomes have stickies jutting out like porcupine quills marking favourite passages? Do these books hold evidence of unscheduled snacks that helped the reader through that “last chapter” before making dinner? Have any of them been with the owner for so many years they can’t remember the written birthday greeting on the inside cover from “Diane”. Diane who? What birthday?
It makes me wonder when those books were last touched. However, I chose that photo because at least it’s holding some foreign objects that don’t relate to anything other than life. The catcher’s mitt probably belonged to the owner as a kid. The tennis racket, the old dinosaur and the airplane probably hold memories that couldn’t be put in a box. Speaking of boxes, I bet those boxes on the shelves didn’t fit anywhere else in the house.
Here’s why I’m focusing on book shelves. Our local Literacy Club collects books from residents and puts on a monster book sale to raise funds for their literacy programs. So far, I’ve donated at least 10 bags of books. Most of those bags held a minimum of 10 books. Yet, my bookshelves still don’t come close to that photo posted above.
I didn’t think I’d ever do this, but I’m going to come out of the “untidy bookshelf closet” – knowing some of you are superb home decorators. I’m swallowing my pride with great difficulty so I can reveal the small dint my donation made in my book shelves.
At my house, you can see how my books love company – look at those shoes. At night, I’m certain the shoes report their daily travels to bored books. Socks stay close to their favourite shoes to make sure no details are left out. The shoes like keeping band-aids close by – no guilt when heels are chaffed. A round, green “quickie” shoeshine gismo sits on a shelf near the shoehorns.
For diversity, there’s safety glasses, dust masks, essential oils, incense, photos, virtues cards and many “earthy” objects d’art.
On the extreme left, there’s binders holding materials and notes from various courses studied over the years – nutrition for the body and soul. Journals sit in out-of-date-order that my women friends MUST destroy if I’m found to be incompetent or gone. They’re written in code in case those women don’t fulfill their promise. Actually, all named parties are safe. I changed the code so often over the decades that even I can’t decipher my entries anymore.
The Amy sign became part of the book shelf collection after an office where I worked claimed they’d never hire another Amy. I don’t know if it was something I did or said…
One of the dearest items is the 15-volume set of MasterPlots: Digests of World Literature. It’s the series of red books on the top of the book shelf on the left. My husband gave me the set on February 11, 1981 and wrote on the inside of Volume 1, “May your thirst for life and learning never be quenched. Love, John.”
Each volume is a reservoir of literary achievements which has been accumulating since the legendary beginnings of Western civilizations. Each piece of literature is explained:
- type of work
- type of plot
- time of plot
- first published
- principal characters
This particular set, published in 1964, served as my literary internet for many years.
Even more precious than the MasterPlots is one small paperback, “The Lifetime Reading Plan”, published in 1960 by The World Publishing Company. It lists more than 100 of the most stimulating books every written. It’s more precious due to a request I made. I asked my mother, who majored in English, to go through these 300 pages and write her thoughts about any of the books. Consequently, tucked between pages, I find my mother’s pithy and poignant comments, handwritten on recycled mimeographed paper from her teaching days. A few samples:
For Henry Fielding’s – Tom Jones – mother wrote, “I liked Tom Jones – long-winded, but like a cake containing nut-like or tasty bits.”
For John Milton, she wrote, “Glorious language.”
She didn’t surprise me with her comment on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter”, “I read this while yet in my teens [approx 1923], and even then could sympathize with a woman who “made a mistake”. In “my day” (Ha!) in our culture, we could realize what “wages of sin” could amount to.”
I confess to having two other stashes of books. One is mostly reference books for writing; the other is filled with a highly diverse selection of pleasurable reads. These are the newest members of my library and be damned if I’m going to give them up right now.
I haven’t considered a Kindle yet. I provide a pill popping service to Duc le Chat three times a day which keeps me from significant traveling. If I go “kindle”, do I forgo the experience of sorting through books that are destined to serve some greater need? I’ll miss opening flaps to see what some beloved wrote.
If I go “kindle”, what about all those notes in the margin? How would I be reminded of a special quote shared with a person who loved it equally?
I’ll miss the mystery of why some section is highlighted in its entirety.
How will I learn about people when I walk into homes without book shelves? “Do you mind if I look at your Kindle while you are putting the kettle on?”