Home Libraries

What a world! Just as we begin changing the look of our
house, the décor that has characterized us since we got married comes into fashion!
According to recent reports,
home libraries are booming.  This puts an
entirely different slant on the thousands of books we have lying around.
Instead of following our recently instituted policy, insisting that for every
book my husband or I acquire we have to get rid of four others, we can preen at
our stylishness.

We even surpass the families featured in a newspaper article
on the topic. It seems we were early adapters of one type of library mentioned,
which combine books with other activities. We have the kitchen library, the
living room library, the closet library and many bedroom libraries. We can call
every room in our house a library! I don’t think you can walk two feet in our
house without hitting a book. Our mistake was thinking that this is a problem
rather than realizing we should be submitting pictures to House Beautiful.

The article I read made suggestions as to what different
types of books say about the owner. We get extra points for the Dickens on our
shelf! Actually, our books divide into two categories: sefarim and books. Sefarim
are mostly in Hebrew or Aramaic, repositories of ancient Jewish wisdom. Those
should be the really high-scoring volumes. Aesthetically, they may not make the
cut. They tend to be well thumbed; some of their spines need rebinding.

The rest of our books aren’t exactly pristine either. Many
of them are refugees from second hand bookstores, which explains the “Happy
Birthday Billy – Love Aunt Betty and Uncle Simon” inscriptions. We think of
them as antiques, boasting price markings that wouldn’t buy a daily paper
today. Almost all of them have gone through ‘tough love,’ with the victors
surviving saltwater baths on our boating trips, toddler page-turners and occasional
service as fort walls.

It seems that there are companies that will make custom
covers for sets of books, so that when looking at the set, one sees an
appropriate picture spread across the spines of all the volumes. We do have
almost all the William books by
Richmal Crompton, as well as the entire Betsy,
series and L.M. Montgomery’s well-known and lesser-known books.  Somehow, I don’t see our books staying on the
shelf in the right order to make the overall artistic effect work.

I’m not enamored of the idea of hiring a
designer to place the books by color or theme, and I truly reject the words of
one designer who claims that too many sideways books suggest that the books might
not actually be read. However, like the old truism that even a broken clock
tells the time accurately twice a day, we who are (thankfully) rarely in step
with the fashionistas and intellectuals of the times, seem somehow to be at the
cutting edge of fashion. For a short time at least, we can start book shopping

4 thoughts on “Home Libraries”

  1. I remember relatives getting very excited that they could choose their favorite books and a painter would make a painting of the books that had helped create their philosophy of life and then they could hang it in their office. When I googled it the name Jane Mount came up.
    Some people could choose economics, another person poetry, another person on horses, another on gardening, another on architecture, another on landscaping. The choices are infinite.

  2. What a relief! Now I can feel proud of all my book piles and shelving throughout the house. Thank you. – A teacher-librarian.

  3. Dear Rabbi, your jeremiad on the ghastly return to Egypt sends chills up the spine, especially as we look in the mirror and see much of what you describe on the verge of happening right before our eyes. Combine today’s lesson with the Tower of Babel, Nimrod playing Santa Claus with empty promises of health care and welfare, and the portrait of encroaching hell is complete.
    Having over 4,000 books beyond count, I empathize with Ms. Susan. I want to buy yet another, and I hear the question from the old Russian joke; “Why? You have one!” We hate dusting them and they are a bulky, voluminous security blanket. And some of them are desperately in need of rebinding. But I can appreciate that I was taught to love books by my mother the daughter of a school teacher. I have colleagues who were raised on vulgar pop comics instead of literature, and it shows in the turn of a phrase. There are worse things to buy than books.
    On one library wall is a quote from ancient Rome: “A room without books is a body without a soul.” Cicero 106-43 B.C.E. In the stiffening complexities of today’s fast-forward life, would that we had more time to read them!

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