I have, it might be admitted, a small fetish for books. When I say small, I need to confess that we currently have 9 bookcases in the house and most of those are double-stacked. All the bookcases are the usual 1.8m x 1m size, and we also have 1 large Ikea bookcase. There are also books on the floor. I mention this because recently I’ve been hanging out at Pinterest again and I’ve been looking at other people’s home libraries. When I say looking at I mean slavering over. Here are a couple of libraries I particularly like. It might be that I like the views. Or perhaps the Eames chair that keeps popping up. Or the desks. Or the window seats.
But here’s a thing. I’m not very interested in curated bookshelves, you know, the ones that hold shells and corals and art glass alongside an artfully placed architectural book and 3 Frankie magazines. Meh. Put the art glass on a proper shelf and get thee some actual books, heathens.
And don’t get me started on organising books by COLOUR. How old are you anyway? 4? Are you in Kindergarten?! There’s a lovely old system for book organising. It’s called the Dewey decimal system. Use it.
The other thing I am liking less and less are those shots of ye olde quaint book store, crammed darkly with musty books I will never read, with overflowing cases and tomes piled high next to not-very-comfortable-looking vintage armchairs, moodily lit interiors with no natural light. I’m telling you, people, I’m too fricking blind to read those books in that appalling cave-lit interior. I need to see the sun when I read. Plus, finding a particular book in this hoarder-disorder’s haven must be a bitch.
And those 2-storey libraries with no ladder? That’s called WALL ART. No one’s gonna risk life and limb to climb that wall just to reread Pride and Prejudice, folks. Let’s not conflate gorgeous architectural feature with accessible reading matter.
Finally, I realise I couldn’t care less about most people’s libraries, because I don’t want to read THEIR books. I want to read mine. So, for those who give a shit, here is my preferred reading matter. Be warned, it’s a listicle.
Books by women, all nationalities
Books by award winners (but not the really worthy or obtuse ones because life’s too short)
Sci-fi books by people like Ursula Le Guin and Iain M Banks although I confess to also owning a reasonable amount of space opera
Australian crime fiction; other crime fiction, usually by women writers
Australian literature, all authors, eras and styles
Academic books about my academic interests
Funny books about grammar and weasel words, dictionaries and thesauruses
Singing text books, scores and song albums (by far the biggest selection in my library)
Biographies and autobiographical books
Feminist tracts (well ok, maybe just a few because they’re hard going at times)
Recipe books but only the really pretty ones or the really well worn Australian Women’s Weekly ones
Beautiful coffee table books
Poetry and plays
And last and least, airport novels, doorstoppers and bodice rippers that I can discard or give away or leave in airports – although I find it hard to discard!
I have a few other book collections, including my very favourite childhood books from A.A. Milne etc., some favourites from my children’s childhood, some old craft books and handyman books, lonely planet guide books, plus funny quote and joke books that DH likes to collect. Plus some sadly useless garden books (because I have black thumbs – it’s a miracle my children and my pets survived to adulthood).
I do not believe for one minute anyone is remotely interested in my book collections, nor am I interested in military books, anything about cars or fashion. I quite like architecture but not enough to buy books on the stuff and I actively dislike stupid writers. So there goes Jackie Collins and fifty shades of stupid fan fic nonsense.
So Carrie Bradshaw-like, I ask the question: is coveting beautiful libraries on Pinterest mere admiration of their architectural features, or is it for the knowledge those libraries represent?
Or is there a third option? Perhaps this: that a well curated library space enables meaningful learning to take place in a hospitable environment, purpose-built to enhance the value of these collections of words, thoughts, and ideas. And, as every philosopher ever said: “the soul of a home is contained in its library”. Maybe its intellect, too.
Whatever the reason, I know I want and need a library. If nothing more than to get the fricking books off the floor.