Thursday, October 13, 2005

The book habit

"A room without books is like a body without a soul."--Cicero

Cicero would have liked my house. I've got books or magazines in every room. The other day a friend came over after I'd been noodling around in about twelve books, some of which were piled on the floor, some open on the sofa, mixed in with notes on scrap paper, bookmarks, and a magazine or two. My friend took one look and said, "It looks like study hall in here!"

It doesn't always look like that. Today I put the living room in order, so there are no piles of books. Three full bookcases, yes, but no piles. Here in the office, there are only four or five piles on the floor. I would put these books on the shelves, but I need to have these out so I'll look at them soon. One is the brand new annotated Grimm, absolutely beautiful. Some of the piles are library books--I have cards for three libraries in my wallet. I used to have a specific shelf for borrowed books, but I've run out of space for that.

In this office, there are three tall and two short bookcases. The bedroom has two tall bookcases, the kitchen has a short one, and there's a magazine holder in the bathroom. All are full. The pile next to the bed is about ten books tall right now.

I can't seem to help this. Sometimes I go through and weed my collection, taking the books I am willing to set free to the used bookstore. That's dangerous--I get credit, not cash, so more find their way to my house.

Last Sunday I got rid of six books at the 100 Good Women chocolate potluck and book swap, and I only brought home two. That would seem laudable, but the day before I went to the free day at the library book sale and came home with about twenty. That's on top of the six or so that I got for full price the previous week.

I scored big at that library sale: five old issues of Parabola, two PG Wodehouse novels (one was a duplicate in my Wodehouse collection), cartoons by Edward Koren, Let's go for broke by Mary Lasswell (well-loved but unknown to all but my family?), Great folktales of wit and humor by James R. Foster, More Celtic fairy tales collected by Joseph Jacobs, a book of Russian slang, a couple of books on Medieval romances, and more.

While it might sound as if I just collect books, I do read them. Like the rest of my family, I've been a reader since I was four. I especially love sitting quietly with my family, all of us reading together. I read while I eat, before I sleep, while I brush my teeth (that strange-looking thing on the side of the sink is a leather bookweight, to hold a book open while I floss).

There's comfort in knowing that I come from a long line of readers. Rumor has it that when my Grandmother Howe was a library trustee in Bristol RI, the books were delivered first to the house, where they were read by the family before going to the library (except for the trashy novels, which went straight to the Rogers Free Library).

Time for supper. Wonder what I'll read.


Deb said...

What a delightful entry!

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