Musings of a Bibliophile

In my dream house, I would have a library: walls of floor-to-ceiling, glass-fronted bookcases. In reality I have six open bookcases and a woodstove, a dust procreator. Periodically I remove all the books, vacuum the top edges of them, wipe them, and cull out the books I don’t need to keep. It is my favorite cleaning project: old friends are fondly acknowledged, unread books are opened and sighed over. There are discoveries and dialogs. Yes, I talk to myself.

Here then, are my thoughts while cleaning and shelving books.

• What discoveries! Many books have Post-it flags dotted across the top; I found (and removed) other forms of bookmarks. One square of toilet tissue. A white plastic flosser. A register receipt. Bear that in mind if you want to borrow my books.

• I moved Charles and Mary Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare from the Shakespeare shelf down to the kids’ books on the bottom. All things Greece gave up the glorious Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of The Iliad and The Wanderings of Odysseus to the same location.  Which prompts me to say how much I love the illustrations of Alan Lee.

• There is the problem of the Norton Anthologies. What if? I whisper.  What if? I repeat.  What if I started working through these, reading sections in between other books? I pick one up and flip to the last page. Page 2579. Well, that’s a happy thought, I conclude.

• I love the idea, and occasionally the practice, of deep reading. Reading through all the works of a great author. Ignatius Press has issued The Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton. How I would love to own all 36 volumes! Seven are still to be published. But I have Volume 1 on my shelf; I remember the splurge of purchasing it at Twice Read Books in Chambersburg, PA. Even though I haven’t read all of Volume 1, I like to imagine having read all 29 published volumes.

• The internet has made so many reference books redundant. Take The New York Public Library Desk Reference. I imagine that every tasty bit of information (TBOI, for short) could be found online. But oh, what a glorious source of whimsical reading. And how many hours have I enjoyed between the covers of TNYPLDR. Browsing isn’t the same online. Alas, it is on the “out” pile.

• I couldn’t just dust the art books without some lookie-loos. Winslow Homer, I love you. 

• I’ve been called a Grammar Nazi a few times lately, a label I protest. This shelf, however, tells a different story.

 What tales do your bookshelves tell?

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9 thoughts on “Musings of a Bibliophile

  1. Two things:I don’t know what genetic connection bibliophiles have- but I’m glad you’re my sister.Secondly- From Dawn to Decadence- Jacques Barzun.  If you haven’t, you should.  If for no other reason than the references to other books…  After discussing an important topic/person, etc., Barzun always sticks in “the book to read is…..”Ok, a third thing… I have several volumes of the Chesterton series… There is no way the e-version can come close- despite the major price difference…..just saying..

  2. As we prepare to return to Brazil I know I have to unload lots of books, but when I go to the shelves to thin them out, I get caught up in the nostalgia of  “Oh, my, wasn’t that a wonderful book!?” or “Won’t this be fun to read someday?”  I’m not doing a very good job of decluttering, but I sure am enjoying myself.

  3. “What discoveries! Many books have Post-it flags dotted across the top; I found (and removed) other forms of bookmarks. One square of toilet tissue. A white plastic flosser. A register receipt. Bear that in mind if you want to borrow my books.” Yes for an emergency bookmark I suppose all sorts of things end up as a book mark. “exactly what precisely should a person bear in mind? That if you leave something really sordid, then your book borrowing privilege is revoked or that you would notice it and fume about?Sounds like fun here I will subscribe.

  4. My bookshelves probably reflect that I am a generalist who knows too little about too many things and not enough about anything…    But I can live with it 🙂    And quite a lot of books are second hand, acquired pretty much at random.

  5. I especially like the flosser. Clearly you have strong resistance to dog-earing! I loved this post and saw some “old friends” here. I will have these thoughts in mind as I look at my own shelves…

  6. @jalanmiller – I’ve had From Dawn to Decadence on my shelf for TOO long. I picked it up, nosed around, and dived into the introduction. Oh, YES!  This is going to be a great ride. (You mentioning that Barzun includes book recommendations was too enticing. I’m a sucker for authors telling me further books to explore.)I would never want to read Chesterton’s works in an e-book. No, sir. I want the collection on. my. shelf.

  7. “In my dream house, I would have a library: walls of floor-to-ceiling, glass-fronted bookcases.”==I couldn’t agree more!I love bookshelves and book-cases almost as much as I love books.  They are a thing of beauty, whether they’re neatly arranged or haphazard. :)Don’t apologize for this post–I thoroughly enjoyed it!Cindy at Cindy’s Book Club

  8. I need someone to tell me what my bookshelves are saying other than: “Read me, read me! Read me again!” and “My, you need to build some more shelves and take a load off the ones that are already over-loaded.”

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