Life is starting to settle down a bit finally and I’m slowly getting myself unpacked and organized in my new home. This means access to and rediscovery of many things that have been in storage for the last year and a half; most importantly, my books. I still don’t have nearly enough bookcases, but when will I ever?
One of my greatest delights these days is sorting and categorizing my books.
Some books live in defined enough categories that they are allowed permanent positions on shelves or bookcases. For instance, I generally keep a bookcase of my most influential authors, which has always consisted of at least Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Neil Gaiman. Lately, these shelves have been gradually expanding, though, and now include George MacDonald, Flannery O’Connor, and Dorothy L. Sayers, with a collection of Joy Davidman developing off C.S. Lewis.
My collection of Russian Literature has also begun to earn it’s own permanence among my office shelves. Aleksander Solzhenitsyn is the most dominant, but Dostoevsky and Tolstoy are well represented as well.
Among the more transient stacks of books on my office floor are categories representative of my current projects and thought patterns. I have stacks focusing on men and modern manhood, to help get me in the mind-frame of the male protagonist of the novel I’m working on. Likewise, I have a whole collection of books about dinosaurs that lives on my desk right now, to help with that same novel. I have stacks on modern and classical education models, the history of books and reading, and children’s development. I have various stacks of theology books, as those all have various categories of their own, though I’m currently focusing most on the lives of the Apostles as well as Dominican philosophy and St. Thomas Aquinas.
And these are just the books that live in my office; I haven’t even begun to organize our family library, which is where the majority of my Fiction, History, and Biographies are kept.
It’s hard to explain to someone who is not a reader the comfort that books can bring. The familiarity of a long-beloved book or author is like that of a child’s security blanket. The excitement of a new book on a favorite topic is one of the greatest thrills for someone who is always so hungry for knowledge. The assurance that we are not alone in our passions and interests; that someone else cared enough to put in the long hours to write tens of thousands (if not more) of words on the same ideas and questions running through our own heads. Or the knowledge that there are people out there with drives and obsessions that would never occur to us and who are the reason that we can have a balanced and nuanced culture in the first place.
Allow me to indulge in just a few more random reflections on books.
I’m not particularly interested in first editions or collectors items or even signed copies, really. I’m interested in the content, not any particular copy. And I like the freedom to write in and mark up my books, so I don’t like seeing them as something too precious to be handled. That being said, if a book is out of print and difficult to find then I am very interested in it.
I do prefer physical copies to e-books, because I’ve found I retain knowledge better with tangible association. I like to be able to flip and skim through a book to refresh myself on what I’ve already read, and that’s difficult to do on an e-reader.
There are some books that I just like owning multiple copies of, partly so that I can loan them out to people and partly for when the apocalypse comes and society crashes down around us. Knowledge needs to be preserved.
What kind of relationship do you have with books? Do you need to own them or are you content with borrowing? Physical, e-books, or audio? I’d love to hear in the comments!