I love books. (I’d be amazed to find a writer who doesn’t.) And I especially love the books I own. I know in today’s recycling crazy world, selling your used books is the thing to do. I appreciate the idea of sharing the story. But, I hold on to mine. I keep all my books. Since college I’ve held on to every single one. Admittedly a few have disappeared after being borrowed into friends’ hands & homes causing me to consider some kind of library overdue book policy for the more blatant offenders. I remember the title of each missing book. I know, I should learn to let go. But I can’t. My books are part of who I am. Looking at them, I can recall where I was when I read them & what was going on in my life at the time. The fact that I picked up each one in a bookstore, choosing that one out of thousands, bought it, brought it home, & read it, says something about what was going on in my head at that moment. When it came time to pack up and move from DC back to LA, the movers were nice enough to tell me that I could cut my moving fee in half if I’d just give up the books. But I couldn’t. I paid the $1000+ and they came along with me on this next chapter in my life.

Today, they reside in my living room. They & I have made do with white Ikea bookshelves until such a time when we can find a home with built-ins. Space considerations require that each shelf is filled left to right, top to bottom. But we’re together and that’s all that matters.

With that in mind, I was a little disturbed by this article in today’s Wall Street Journal. In her article, “Why Libraries Are Back in Style,” June Fletcher writes that there is a rising trend in personal libraries, or “memory rooms,” in people’s homes. I love that home libraries are back in style, but I’m horrified by the reason why.

This trend in libraries is not about the books Fletcher writes, “…their appeal is often about creating a certain ambiance.”

She adds:

What can make libraries more soothing than other formal rooms isn’t so much books but the framed family photographs, awards and mementos that share the shelves and define a family’s interests and identity, says McLean, Va., architect Chris Lessard. “They’re memory rooms,” he says. Because libraries are public rooms, oftentimes the books are purely decorative and don’t say as much about the family who lives there. The books that people really read, like paperback novels and how-to guides, often are kept out of sight elsewhere in the home.

….

Tucson, Ariz., interior designer Terri Taylor says she spends a lot of time scouring flea markets and bookstores for books with fancy bindings for her clients’ bookshelves. She selects books to match color schemes rather than for their content.

Yes, my “library” is a memory room, but it’s the books themselves, all read by me, that provide the memories. I have never looked at them as decorative items used to accent the knick-knacks I’ve picked up on my travels or the photos of family & friends that I’ve placed on the edges. There’s no color scheme. Although, I have tried to institute a category system. Basically, fiction with fiction & non-fiction with non-fiction. Simple but it works. It’s all there. I never hide my books & the record of what I’ve read. Hardcover and paperback peacefully coexist. The great literature, the chick lit, the history tomes, the career advice guides sit side by side. I’ve always believed that if someone really wants to know me, they should spend some time looking at my bookshelves. It’s the one place where I seem to have no problem admitting to all my odd and passing interests, & sometimes questionable taste.

I was relieved at the very end of Fletcher’s article to know that there are still people like me who appreciate books & libraries for what they are:

Similarly, author Jay McInerney and his wife, Anne Hearst, happily mix dog-eared paperbacks with first editions of Fitzgerald and Joyce in the overstuffed bookcases of both their Manhattan apartment and their Hamptons house. Mr. McInerney thinks the visual jumble of thousands of mismatched books is appealing. “If you’re not reading what’s on your bookshelves, you should find something else to decorate with,” he says.

Proof that there are still sane people in the world!!

Image: erik via flickr

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