Bookcases Need Books

Everybody has an opinion about the print book v. e-book. I like both and have both. I’ll never give up all my print books because what would I do with all those empty shelves? There’s a tactile pleasure in handling books that nothing else provides. There’s also a scent to books: paper and ink, even soy ink, and gum that is hard to beat.

Antique books, the really old ones, breathe on their own.

Over the years I’ve bought and sold thousands of volumes. At one time I collected old, rare, and antique books. Almost all of them have gone on to live with other bookophiles. One beautifully leather-bound pocket volume with exquisite color plates still holds a special place on a shelf. It’s in old German (which I can’t read) but it doesn’t matter, I still appreciate the artistry of the maker.

I rather hope print books explore the possibility of returning to the practices of yore. Produce a book that will still be solid and durable in the hand two centuries from now and I’d spend a chunk to buy one and gift it to someone special.

The modern world provides many conveniences but I long for some of the elegance and artistry of the past. My father’s tool boxes contain handtools made decades ago out of lovely rosewood and inlaid with silver filagree. They function just as well as modern implements but contain a vestige of elegence that fills you up inside, like a memory from another era, when you use one.

Old things fascinate me. I know that about myself.

Accumulating material objects matters less to me than the stories they contain. Museums, antique stores, curio shops, historic sites offer up a plenitude of artifacts around which personal stories and histories swirl like wraiths. Written words appeal to me because they’re tangible bits of time that can be shared and enjoyed and passed along. Books are the shared DNA of readers and writers around the world. What an excellent family.

One of my favorite childhood books was Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson. I still have a battered, creased and marked up copy that evokes memories of paste glue, thick crayons and blue-lined pulp paper. Some people want to be interred with love letters, photographs, special keepsakes. Me? I want my favorite books. If there’s an afterlife I want to make sure my best friends are there too.

What was your favorite childhood volume? Which tome could you simply not exist without? Have you shared the stories that most matter to you?

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  1. #1 by Naomi Bulger on August 29, 2011 - 1:28 pm

    What a lovely, nostalgic post. I like to hold and handle my books, too, and haven't yet been over to cross over to kindle-land. Of course, there is a price to pay for owning all those books when moving house (as I have recently experienced).

  2. #2 by Lesann Berry on August 29, 2011 - 3:24 pm

    I totally agree. I've bought ebook versions of many of the books I like to re-read. There's a pleasure in knowing they're all right there (pointing at bedside table), but I love the tactile pleasure of books. Mix it with a really old volume and….ahhh.Most of my book purges have occurred close to relocation times. I find if you're a book lover, friends and family are less apt to help you move. lol

  3. #3 by Angela Wallace on August 29, 2011 - 3:47 pm

    I used to keep every book I owned. Then I moved, and moved again, and it got harder to transport and unpack those boxes, so I had to downsize. I kinda gave up on buying things because I wanted them and switched to, "you don't have room for that." Making Christmas lists is very difficult. 😛

  4. #4 by Lesann Berry on August 29, 2011 - 3:58 pm

    Me too. I've moved often enough over the years that I've pared things down to the items that I really treasure. And making gift lists gets awkward as I get older because I find I prefer experiences to "stuff". Books are still great gifts though cause I can always pass them along to others.

  5. #5 by Alica McKenna Johnson on August 29, 2011 - 6:29 pm

    I lvoe books and I want that room- but I also love e-books. I want them all. One of my childhood favs- Island of the Blue Dolphins.

  6. #6 by Lesann Berry on August 29, 2011 - 6:33 pm

    Every time I settle into a new place I think I've more than enough room for books and soon…the shelves are full. Oh yes, I remember that one too. I wanted a shell necklace and to live on an island. Although, that doesn't seem like such a great thing now.

  7. #7 by Lani Wendt Young on August 29, 2011 - 7:42 pm

    BEautiful post. When i was little and kids played "3 Wishes" – the others could never understand my number one wish – for a library of books in my house, with thousands of books that I could spend all day and night with. Your pic of the 'perfect house' reminded me of that wish! As an adult and a mum of five children who love to read – I spend far too much money on books because its such a joy to see my children have the same hunger for books as I do. And its always a delight to get to introduce them to my faves from when i was a kid.

  8. #8 by Lesann Berry on August 29, 2011 - 10:35 pm

    I'd have totally understood Wish #1. If I ever build a guesthouse it'll look like this picture – every surface and component designed to hold books. And then I'll turn it into my writing studio and spend all my time reading….The "hunger" for books is something I think we recognize in other writers. Thanks for visiting.

  9. #9 by megannafke on August 30, 2011 - 4:02 am

    I'm so envious of the first picture. Right now I don't have any room for them. I got a few under the bed, and just about any place I can find. I hadn't though of having a guestroom lined with bookcases. It would be like my own little library. Maybe one day…

  10. #10 by Lesann Berry on August 30, 2011 - 4:21 am

    Booky people are pretty innovative furniture designers. I've found some really cool book storage solutions just by rethinking how things are built. It's also helpful to have someone who's handy with a hammer and saw.

  11. #11 by Tameri Etherton on August 30, 2011 - 11:11 am

    Ooooh, I want that book shelf in my house. I adore old books and can't part with any of my friends. If I bought it, I obviously love it, right? I'm trying Kindle, but there's just something about being able to drop a book and not stress that your bazillion dollar fancy book reader thing is broken. And you can't take an iPad to the beach.Lovely post. Makes me think of all the old crafted items that are made of plastic now – I'll be your dad's tools still work great.

  12. #12 by Natale on August 30, 2011 - 11:12 am

    Like Angela, I've moved so many times and often to very small quarters that I've had to slowly downsize my book collection to only those prized books. I would love to have a room of wall to wall books but I don't think it'll happen in my lifetime. So I'm now content to have an e-library stocked full – much easier to move!Loved the post!

  13. #13 by Lesann Berry on August 30, 2011 - 11:52 am

    Like Tameri I love actual books, but the convenience of e-readers is hard to beat because, as a recovering book hoarder….I can fit 100s into an itty bitty space. Well, okay maybe not that many, but close! Yep…those tools work pretty darn good. They might be as fast as power tools, but they'll last a lot longer.Like Natalie, the pleasure of holding a book though, turning pages, the weight in my hand – those are things I can't imagine being without.

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