What are you reading? What’s on your bookshelf?
And what does it say about you?
Have you ever been to someone’s home, and you know that something feels a little “off,” but you aren’t sure why? That happens to me when there are no books. And it’s most surprising when it’s a spacious and expensive home. I find myself vaguely uncomfortable, and wondering about the occupants of the household.
Take a look at your bookshelves
I have always considered myself “a wealthy woman.” No, not money. Quality people, and books. Yes. I am rich in books.
My whole life, I’ve felt good surrounded by books. In the library. At Barnes & Noble or Borders. Or a little dusty used book store tucked in a Parisian neighborhood, or on the Lower East Side.
And without books? I feel impoverished. As long as I had material to read (preferably not on a computer screen), I’d never be bored and I would always have worlds to discover and people with whom to converse and interact.
Print versus online
Like everyone now, I read a great deal online. Mostly it’s news, but other items of interest as well. I love it!
While online media has certainly taken its toll on the newspaper business, I don’t think the displayed word replaces the pleasure of a book. Is there a place for both page and screen? Of course. Certainly, for me.
What’s on my shelves?
On my shelves, you’ll find a little of everything! I have sections on contemporary and modern art, design, dictionaries, more dictionaries, French grammar, 19th century European literature, writing and style guides, and books on poetry, systems design, marketing, management, and of course – more popular literature if you count John Irving or Philip Roth.
What do my books say about me?
A perusal of my books is a tour of what I’ve studied, what interests me, the fields I’ve worked in professionally. It’s a glimpse into my world, my history, and my values. It also reflects my love of the written word, and that I’m not afraid to let those who walk into my home “see” me, or what I love.
Think about your friends and neighbors
When you walk into your friends’ or neighbors’ homes, do they have shelves with the requisite bound volumes of Shakespeare? Or the “100 greatest works of literature?”
Am I being judgmental? Yes! (And what’s so wrong with that? Can’t I have an opinion?)
Do I make judgments when I enter a home devoid of books? Or if all I see are decorator-provided tomes that look good in next to the yellow sofa? Yes again.
I wonder if there’s been no study, no passionate interests. I wonder why past lives are tucked away, or if a decorator’s taste is more important than individuality.
There are always exceptions. There may be books, but they’ve been put away somewhere; books from studies are packed up and sealed away, or they’ve been sold off in a yard sale.
In other instances, it’s a matter of space, and books may have been left with a parent, or they may actually have disappeared in a divorce! (I’ve encountered that more than once, which I find terribly sad.)
It’s a matter of values
To me, the presence of books says “I read.” But more than that, even if someone doesn’t have much time for reading (in our crazy, hectic go-go-go society), it says “I value reading when I can.” Does it need to be eight bookshelves brimming with materials? Stacks on tables and on the floor?
I may like that, but of course not. Yet I love to see a life that includes books. When it doesn’t, I wonder…
Are the books on your shelves a source of pleasure? A reminder of people and places and experiences? Are you richer for revisiting their pages?
What are you reading these days?