Just one step from the kitchen is the living room. That's where our library is. Read all about it my latest article "Home is Where the Hardcover Is" (just published in Community Newspapers' 2010 "Spring Home & Garden" tab). Do not rush to the end in hopes of a delicious recipe. You will be disappointed even further.
“To add a library to a house is to give that house a soul.” – Cicero
The first thing I look for when I enter someone’s home is a book shelf (the second is a musical instrument). If I don’t find one within the first five minutes of my visit, I leave (this becomes a problem when I have booked a weekend at a bed and breakfast).
Should I find a book shelf, I peruse the titles and begin a process I call “the judging.” “The Judging” involves either my exhaling a series of ever more disappointed groans or the approving nod, or even the impressed squint and pucker of the eyes and lips.
But one book shelf, regardless of its volumes, trumps no book shelf at all, regardless of the hosts’ hospitality.
Imagine! No books! More than a passive shame, I regard such neglect as impudent!
I know – you don’t read, you’re read to and, as such, own your books on tape (tape? I’m dating myself…), or CD, or most likely in an audio file format you’ve downloaded to your iPod, iPad, or maybe even your old 2XL. I’ll pardon you this literary indiscretion. You are still a lover of knowledge. But, boy, are you missing out on the singularly simple pleasure of reading!
“No furniture so charming as books.” – Sydney Smith
Do I have a home library? Haven’t you heard of the O’Shaughnessy Public Library? Probably not – the “Public” part is a ruse. It’s our private library. Well, it’s a lending library for our “private public”, I guess, they being friends and family. I shouldn’t call it the O’Shaughnessy Public Library. Merely, the Greater O’Shaughnessy Public Library, it being a branch of OPL (my brothers curate their own).
My wife Erin and I constructed our library out of necessity – I collect books. I’m not a “true” book collector, no antiquarian, just a run-of-the-mill bibliophile. But I buy a lot of books. And I like to line them up side by side, spine out, displaying title, author and publisher. I used to run them on the floor, along the kitchen wall, until my wife suggested a “bookshelf” or “bookshelves.” What a novel idea!
Turns out we have five bookshelves worth of books. And so we appointed ourselves librarians. The cataloging began. Dewey Decimal? I am familiar with it, but I opted for a slightly broader classification system: a general non-fiction shelf for non-fiction books that do not fit the other non-fiction categories; Metaphysics; Film & Television; Children’s; Music; Journalism; Comics; Humor; Travel; General Fiction; Acton & Adventure; Poetry; Plays; Lit. Crit.; Literature; Ireland.
Of course, there’s spill-over. Call it the “Screwy” Decimal System! (Please re-shelve this joke in “Humor”.)
“So Mike,” you ask, composing yourself, your sleeve damp with tears of laughter, “how do you remember where the books go on the shelf?”
Labels, labels, labels in our library, library, library! Erin designed the category labels that we affixed with cellophane tape to the facing lips of certain shelves. I typed the appropriate subdivisions on white paper (with mine Royal typewriter – click…click…click). Erin cut them out into small rectangles and glued them on to slightly larger rectangles of forest green construction paper. Voila! as the French say (see Breton, Andre – Literature ).
The Literature section, I have organized alphabetically by author. The rest, well, size seems to dictate placement. It’s up to you! What am I, the library police?
"My library was dukedom large enough." – William Shakespeare
Even if you don’t like to read, you should consider the rest of society and our access to knowledge. Start a library and consider it furniture. Make its contents secondary. In fact, have somebody a little more literate than you fill up the shelves. You don’t want to sit down to brunch one late Sunday morning only to hear a light rapping on your front door. Upon investigation, you encounter the Duke and Duchess of So-and-so wiping their shoes on your doormat. “Our royal coach appears to have acquired a flat tyre,” mewls the Duke. “May we wait inside your residence?”
You pause and consider the lack of cultural artifacts in your fancy, barren, modern home. Full of highfalutin amenities, but nary a slim volume of Wordsworth in sight! Imagine the shame as your glistening fingertips, still buttery from brunch, nervously offer an issue of Sports Illustrated to the visiting royals as they sink into your leather sectional. And just your luck – the swimsuit edition!
You blew it, Charlie! Not bloody likely you’ll be arm in arm with the Queen Mother at Monte Carlo this summer.
Learn to love books and you’ll love to learn from books. There they are! Within reach in your own home library!