the project of the books

17 November 2009

My bookshelves are a shameful mess.  Shameful.  So shameful I’m posting pictures of them so you can be ashamed of me too. 

Since leaving our house and home in Windsor five and a half years ago, I’ve vastly reduced the number of my possessions.  In moving from a two and a half storey house to a two bedroom flat, there must be substantial weeding.  Okay, purging is a better word.  I’ve even pared down the number of books – keeping only my favourites, literature I’ve collected since my English Lit student days and other collectibles including some old books picked up at markets and yard sales. 

I’ve a number of books on my shelves I haven’t read yet.  I like the idea of having an available library for choosing from.  On the other hand, what am I waiting for?  Some grand emergency when I’m stuck indoors for weeks on end and nothing to do but read what’s on hand?  But I’m a library goer.  And books get loaned to me and given to me and I get stuck on one theme or author or another and thus some of the books are waiting to be read. 

So back to the issue of the shameful bookshelves.  They’re shameful because I love my books.  Among the few possessions I’ve retained, some of these books are among the beloved and certainly this is no way to treat any beloved thing.  Bookshelves should be a source of pride.  Back in Windsor I would periodically take the books down and dust them and rearrange them.  A bookshelf is something unique to its owner – after all, no two bookshelves are ever alike.  They’re a great source of conversation with guests.  In fact last time my girls came over for dinner items plucked from the bookshelf beside the dining room table inspired hours of talk, and I sent them home with a couple.

The shameful bookshelves are representative of a larger issue I’m afraid.  It’s something about me not setting my feet down in any one place since moving away from Windsor.  Everywhere has been temporary.  I’ve found a neighbourhood I’m willing to commit to, but my current flat is temporary just like the others.  It’s a nice enough apartment, but I could never make it mine.  My landlord lives downstairs and takes pride in his home.  HIS home.  I am a visitor here.  I can’t paint the walls and I don’t feel welcome to hammer nails in to hang my pictures.  My next place will be somewhere in which I can create home – thus my pokey progress in finding it.  And, well, the rent is cheap here.

But that’s neither here nor there – I could be here months yet, and my bookshelves are shameful. 

The past few days I’ve been home sick with a sore throat and minor “feeling ickyness.”  Not that sick, but with all the flu talk and surrounding panic, I’m doing the responsible thing and staying home and working on the things I can, and drinking lots of tea and medicated hot lemon.  But I’m also taking the opportunity to putter around and begin to set right the “not putting my feet down” wrongs.  Yesterday it was my closets and my clothes.  Today it’s the books. 

So like Rob organizing his records in Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, I’m piling books organized by theme this time:  literature and novels, reference books, writing and creativity books, biographies and memoir, spirituality and so forth.

I’m looking forward to getting close and personal again with these few hundred things that have inspired the imaginations of me, my family and friends and who knows how many strangers.

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6 Responses to “the project of the books”

  1. roscoedialogues Says:

    that gives me a blog idea! pictures of all my music, I can’t write something as eloquent about it, but I can take photos.
    how do you put in the high-res pictures that you click on to enlarge? very cool, it’s been a pleasure touring your book collection.

  2. Jennifer Says:

    Great idea! I’ve already thought of several subsequent blog posts as I start handling the books. I expect your massive music collection will keep you blogging for decades.

    (And from where I stand, you write quite eloquently.)

    Your question about the photos is out of my technical league – I suggest asking another blogger who does it. Or googling – or “WordPress for Dummies.”

  3. Reluctant Blogger Says:

    I have book overload too. I need more shelves/bookcases and I need them quick.

    I keep any book that has some meaning for me and all the children’s ones (unless they are particularly nasty ones that other people have bought for them!!) I ditch stuff I just buy to read on holiday.

  4. Jennifer Says:

    Yes, I’m trying to be more discerning about the books I keep. I’ve got a “get rid of” pile going along side the other piles at the moment, but it’s not very big!

  5. Selma Says:

    Oh, the blog posts I could write about my books. I must have about 3000 of them. They are taking over the house. I used to arrange them according to genre. I had a nice little system going where all my books about art and photography were in the bookcase in the living room so people would think I was all arty. I had my poetry and favourite novels in the bedroom. Reference books in the study. And so it went on. That system has now fallen by the wayside as things have gotten a little jumbled. The genres have started visiting one another. Not to mention the pile of unread novels that is growing on my desk.I may need to apply the Dewey Decimal system.

    • Jennifer Says:

      Oh brother did I ever get jumbled too! I used to arrange them similar to you – different themes in different rooms. But then again, doing the big “sort” has proved to be lots of fun so far. But I’m not getting a lot accomplished in having this fun…


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