Sometimes, when I am trying to avoid reading the books I have stacked up on my nightstand, I wander around the house and take a look at the bookshelves just to see if I can’t find something else to read instead. It amazes me what I find. Once, I checked the copyright dates in the oldest-looking books to see when they were most recently published. We own half a dozen books that are over a hundred years old, and a few more that are so old, they don’t have a copyright page. There are books on our shelves I am sure no one in our family has ever bothered to open; books that someone gave us that we never bothered to read, or books we picked up from a garage sale and always meant to look into, but never really got to it.
I remember picking up “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms” on audiobook at the library, listening to it, and thinking my mom would like it. I thought maybe I’d buy her a copy to go with her collection of children’s story books. Today, I noticed we had two copies already on the top shelves in our schoolroom. There is a whole section of spiritual books that all look like they were published in the 70’s or 80’s, and possibly haven’t been opened since. There is a random assortment of classics, but it is hard for me to tell where some of them came from, as few of them are ones my mother has ever talked of enjoying greatly. And there are some books I remember reading when I was ten or so, and haven’t thought about since.
What I find most interesting is that many of the books I have on my shelf in my room fall into many of these same categories. I have my beloved classics (Tolkien, Lewis, Tolstoy, Hugo, and, yes, Harry Potter,) that I am sure I will always hold an honored spot on my bookshelf. But then there are half a dozen textbooks which I am sure I don’t care for, and which I should probably sell before they are too out of date to be worth anything. I have a random assortment of cookbooks, some of which I picked up for cheap off the Borders Bargain Books rack, some I got when my grandparents moved. Under that last heading, I have a set of Rudyard Kipling books that I acquired at the same time, and I have always meant to read them, and haven’t got to yet. I have a copy of “Pride and Prejudice,” but I don’t like the edition, and would much rather own one with a classier cover. I keep thinking I should buy a copy of “Wind in the Willows,” forgetting I own a copy already. It was given to me as a Christmas present eight or nine years ago from my first childcare job.
I own “Japanese for young people,” from when I tried learning Japanese. My aunt gave me a copy of “Wrinkle in Time,” I don’t remember why, although I remember reading and liking it. That was maybe twelve years ago? There is a book I got for free as a prize from the library for completing my summer reading list. It is about a girl who was raised in a village thinking it was still a pilgrim town, but who escapes and finds out it is really the 1990’s. I have my 5th grade book on how to play the recorder, and a collection of Wordsworth poems which I remember picking up at a used book store under the vague notion that I should learn to appreciate more poetry, and since Wordsworth was a name I recognized, why not start with him?
I tend to romanticize books. I always loved the library scene in “Beauty and the Beast,” and my dream as a child (and possibly still today) is to someday have a library like that one. But I have always imagined that I would have read all the books in my library, that they would all have a special meaning for me, and that each book would be beautiful to look at. At the moment, half of what I have on my bookshelf I would get rid of if I could do so conveniently, and some of my best books I bought as paperbacks for the convenience, and because when I was in Germany that was all I had available.
It is strange how collections grow. I don’t believe I have anything more to say on the subject. Only, I do wonder what my shelves will look like in thirty years.