Contented Reader

just point me toward the nearest library

The pleasures of a home library

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I made my first library when I was a teenager.  I dragged all the brick-and-board bookcases to a corner of the basement, and arranged them in an ‘L.’  I brought all the books I could find to my corner- most of them were theological reference books from my father’s seminary days, with mystery novels of my mother’s.  I cleared the corner of all the various bits of basement flotsam and jetsam, and dragged in an old rug and a battered chair.  The chair was red.  Then I settled myself on the chair, in my little ‘L’ of other people’s books, and felt as comfortable as I had ever felt in my house.

“Your father doesn’t quite see your vision,” my mother sighed, as I finally gave up on dragging out the various sundries that Dad would dump into the empty (to his eyes) corner of the basement, and let the basement library moulder.  By then, I had a part-time job, shelving books at the public library, and I could afford to start filling the plastic bookshelf in my room with a truly appalling number of Star Trek paperbacks.

I would only allow myself to carry one box of books to college with me, a terrible rationing, because that’s all I could fit in the car.  Over the course of a school year, I’d gradually crowd my roommates out of all the available shelf space in the dorm room as I accumulated books.  My favorite bookstore was The Book Place, Johnson City, Tennessee.  Half new, half used books, pleasantly musty in aroma.  When I tried to revisit during the college reunion, it was empty.  I blame Barnes and Noble.

Everywhere I’ve ever lived, I’ve surrounded myself with books.  It makes me feel relaxed and comfortable, having them around me.  Even when a bookshelf collapsed, dropping fifty pounds of dead weight on my pillow ten minutes before bedtime, I wasn’t deterred.  Nor was I discouraged by the occasional news clippings, sent by friends and family, about people who had destroyed their houses with the weight of their books.

I can only aspire to owning enough books to damage my foundations.  Maybe someday.

A roommate, a colleague at my first job, brought a friend to visit our tiny apartment.  He stared in disbelief at my

collection (honestly, it was only three bookshelves, though they were shelved two-deep to save space.)  “I don’t think I ever saw that many books in one place,” he told me.  Then he immediately tried to impress me, to show me that he was intelligent, too, by explaining something about UFOs and the pyramids that he had learned on the Discovery channel.  Oddly, I was not as impressed as he had hoped.

Finally, last year, I made my vision reality.  I hired a good carpenter and had my spare bedroom remodeled into a library.  This time, the books are all my own, lovingly collected over decades.  No more cheap plywood shelving, little danger of life-threatening collapses.  The comfy chair I had custom-built at La-Z-Boy (after all, it needs to swivel AND recline), and I chose the rug pattern myself.  It’s a little paradise, and it’s a rare day that doesn’t start or end with at least a few minutes of happy reading there.  So now I am perfectly contented, finally owning enough books and a satisfactory place to put them.  Or so you might think.

But I wish I could still hang out, once in a while, in the dim and dungeon-like basement library of my adolescence.

Also, I’m running out of shelf space already.  Time to buy more cheap plywood bookcases, and fill up the rest of my home.


Written by Contented Reader

July 19, 2011 at 7:14 am

Posted in True stories


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