My dream house—or even my current house, remodeled by someone with far more money than I have—includes a library. A real library, defined as a separate room or nook or designated space, solely for book storage and comfortable reading.
My library will have a fireplace for atmosphere and cozy warmth; overstuffed, oversized chairs in which I can lose myself while reading; lots of natural light as well as different lighting options; a tin ceiling with a cool design; a coffeemaker (of course!); my laptop; a desk . . . and books. Everywhere, books.
Hardcover and softcover. Old and new. Uniform sets and mismatched thrift-store finds. Fiction and non-fiction. Children's and adult.
I don't need them to look pretty; I only need to know that I've read them and I like them. We currently have 21 sets of bookshelves in our house, tall and short—a total of 75 shelves—and they are jam-packed full. I also currently have a couple of large boxes of books in the attic that we're saving for the grandkids (very distant future) and a few boxes full of sell/give (near future). I'm serious about wanting a library. I can't imagine how tidy the rest of my house would look if all the books were in one room. Plus, I could have one of those cool ladders to ride around the room.
When I was a little girl, my mom would take us to the local library—the same library she grew up using—on a regular basis. As an adult looking back, I realize our library was a treasure of old-style architectural beauty, with wide, curved staircases, marble floors, and lots of gorgeous wood. As a kid, all I knew was that I could find Nancy Drew in the kids' section off to the right of the front entrance. I often worried back then that I would read through all the age-appropriate selections and run out of books—and then, what would I do? Thankfully, that never happened, and my love of the library never diminished.
When my own kids were younger, I took them to the library every week. We'd walk in, and regardless of which librarian was at the counter, we were greeted with, "Hello, Dietzes!" The kids each got their own library cards when they turned five years old, and loved it that the librarians knew them by name and always had book recommendations for them. As homeschoolers, we could go during the earlier part of the day when there weren't as many people around, which was wonderful during checkout time because we each had huge stacks of books that took up all the space on the counter.
One of my biggest thrills two years ago was seeing the ruins at Ephesus during a trip to Turkey. My favorite part, on that trip and on the same trip the following year, was this:
Yep, it's a library. THE library. Five stories high by modern standards. I could not tear myself away from this place, even during my second visit. Here's some perspective on the height:
Every detail drew me in, from floor to beautiful ceiling.
I wandered around inside for the longest time, imagining a time when it was filled with people, meeting and discussing the latest happenings. Talking was allowed in the library in those days, I'm sure.
Libraries are essential, whether public or private. Books are too important. And a well-stocked home library should be filled not with books that look good, but books that have been read. An online acquaintance was once discussing her home library and told of a time when a guest at their house, impressed with the sheer number of books, asked, "So . . . how many of these have you read?" He was astounded when she answered, "All of them." In her opinion, it was not worth owning the books if their purpose was ignored.
With this thought in mind, I've spent the last couple days going through my Kindle library in my spare time. I've deleted hundreds of books from the thousands stored there, and will probably continue to delete hundreds more. When I first got my Kindle, it was a real kick for me to be able to download books with a simple click and ten seconds of my time. I started with the classics, even the ones I had in physical form, because they're all free. Then I started browsing through the unknowns, and would frequently get books from the Top 100 Free category. Before I knew it, I had hundreds, and then thousands, of books.
Over 2000 books on a portable device, and I've read only about 700 of them in the past three years, according to the number in my "ok/keepers" category and my "archived" section (top of the line at the time of purchase, my Kindle is now the-one-that-looks-like-a-DX-but-is-as-small-as-a-Paperwhite). The other 1000+ are in various categories such as "cookbooks," "how-to," and "misc. unknown," which is pretty much the same as saying I haven't gotten to them yet. And that's what prompted The Purge.
Even considering how fast I read, there is no way I have enough time to read all the books I've downloaded unless I completely stop getting any new books and concentrate solely on plowing through the list for the next few years. The rate of one book every couple days worked for awhile (I read most often at night, so there have been many times I've skipped a few sleeping hours to finish a book I liked), but the only reason I was able to keep up that pace was because a good number of those books were fluff, pure and simple. It was entertaining for awhile, but my brain got tired of not having to be involved. There were times when I'd find myself skimming through pages, knowing where the whole thing was leading and hoping for something surprising to catch my eye. I even caught myself finishing books and not remember the main characters' names five minutes later.
After recently reading a decently long streak of self-published authors whose books were of good quality, I decided I'm not wasting my time anymore on fluff. I've also gotten over my policy of always finishing a book, no matter how bad. It was really more of a guideline anyway. Nowadays, if a book doesn't have me interested by the third chapter, I assume it's never going to happen. It doesn't have to start with a bang, but if three chapters go by and I'm still not anxious to find out what happens next, then I stop and delete it.
My library, whether virtual or hold-'em-in-my-hands real books, is going to be full of the stories I enjoy enough to reread or hand down to my kids. I have books from my childhood (one of the times a hoarder mom was handy) that my children have enjoyed, and when I look through them I have very specific memories of how old I was or what I was doing when reading them for the first time. Harvey's Hideout, The Magic Spectacles or Miss Suzy might not be classics in the truest sense, but I remember every illustration with fondness.
What's your idea of a well-stocked library?