Bookcases, bedtime reading, libraries, and storytelling
I live in one of those homes where there are bookcases and bookshelves in every room – in the bedrooms, the living room, the lounge, the dining room, the office, the kitchen, even the hallway. Only the bathrooms escape this fate. We have mini libraries of cooking books, fiction, reference books, history books, theology, atlases, and so on. It’s a mission when it comes to dusting, but I love it!
My maternal grandparents are book collectors, my mom is a book collector, and – voilà! – so am I. No surprises there I suppose. I do have the occasional purge, but mostly I like to scheme about the day when I will have a dedicated reading room, with all 4 walls lined by floor-to-ceiling bookshelves that I access by way of a little stepladder. The only thing in this room besides the books will be one very comfy armchair, a footstool, a coffee table, and a tall, free-standing lamp. Can you picture it?
Since being surrounded by an overflow of books is the norm for me, I guess it isn’t terribly remarkable that I’ve developed into a rather capricious reader, flitting from one book to another, to another, and then back, before darting off once again. This doesn’t mean I abandon the books – I read to completion any that are worth my time – but it also means I always have at least half a dozen books by my bedside at any given time, all with bookmarks in them. This is because one day I want fluff, but the next I want information, and the next high intrigue, and the next poetry. I’ve been told this is unusual – none of my book club friends do it – but I’m sure I can’t be the only one? I simply like to dip my metaphorical toes into different metaphorical waters every day.
Right now I’m in the midst of enjoying the following books: Unstoppable (Nick Vujicic), The Watsons (Jane Austen and a continuator), Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony (Lee Miller), The Crown of Columbus (husband-and-wife team Michael Dorris and Louise Erdrich), A Proper Marriage (Dorris Lessing), The 21 Most Amazing Truths about Heaven (Dave Earley), Villette (Charlotte Brontë), An Exaltation of Larks (James Lipton), At Home (Bill Bryson), feel: the power of listening to your heart (Matthew Elliot), and The People’s Act of Love (James Meek).
I can recommend them all, except perhaps for the last two – I’m only a very little ways into each and I’m not quite sure yet if I agree with what’s said in feel: the power of listening to your heart, although I’m certainly open to it and plan to read further, and as to The People’s Act of Love, I will carry on with it for now, but I think it may well turn too visceral for my taste.
Following that last line of thought, buying books by unknown authors, especially modern books, is the closest I come to gambling. You don’t know what you’re going to get. Does anyone else get bummed about this? No matter what the typically eulogising back cover or flap says about a novel, it can so easily turn out to be trashy, poorly written, full of drivel, voyeuristic, or riddled with profanities – you just never know. And now you’re out of pocket because of it.
One of the reasons I’m such a fan of older literature, especially C19th literature, is that evil was almost always obliquely depicted; the stories didn’t lack potency, but the authors refrained from the graphic goriness that prevails today. They also avoided a sort of wallowing or even revelling in the dark, the lewd, or the sordid, which can’t help but drag the reader down with it. So that’s why I’m reserving judgment with regards to The People’s Act of Love – I suspect its heading that way, but I’m holding onto a thin line of hope that it won’t.
Back to my ramblings about the books by my bed … Some of them are mine (bought at secondhand markets, the SPCA shop, bookstores, or inherited from Mom), some are from book club, and some are from the library. I sort of rediscovered visiting the library the other day. I’ve had such a plethora of books to choose from that I’ve had no need to visit it in a long time – I think almost 2 years. But when I parked my car in the shaded little parking lot, and walked past the bulletin boards into that familiar old building – building of my youth – I was reminded of the many, many hours I’d spent there growing up, and of the magic of browsing all those possibilities, trying to whittle my selection down to the allotted number. I came away the other day with two worn-out, plastic-covered hardbacks that have probably lined those shelves for a few decades, a fantasy novel – a genre I know almost nothing about but costs me nothing to try (yay for the library!) – and The Watsons, which I started reading last night because I was in the mood for ‘delightful’.
It was late and my eyes were hurting with fatigue when I was reading about Emma and Elizabeth Watson, who are on their way to the town of Dorking (ah, England – only you!) so Emma can attend her first ball, Elizabeth gossiping all the way about everyone’s lives to her newly-arrived-in-the-neighbourhood sister, but I pushed on for quite some time because, as I quoted a few posts ago in Quotes for writers, “Nothing very much happens in [Austen’s] books, and yet, when you come to the bottom of a page, you eagerly turn it over to learn what will happen next. Nothing very much does and again you eagerly turn the page.”