I'm not one who makes resolutions at the start of a new year. In the past I never kept them, which is disheartening. It is far better to make a resolution that will last for only the day. If it works out, it can be extended to the next day and then the next. If it doesn't work out no harm has been done since the resolution evaporated at midnight anyway, unless it was revived. This year I made a decision, however, and that is far more liberating than a firm pledge. I want to read from my own library this year rather than buy anything new. This decision came about as I tried to get organized. I may fall off the wagon as the year rolls forward, but how bad can that be?
So, on to the organizational effort: I've been slowly adding my library to Goodreads. Slowly because it takes a considerable amount of time to pull them out, one by one, note the ISBN numbers, dust them and put them back on the shelf. Climbing up and down the step ladder is great exercise, which is a bonus, and I figure it counts as my daily "work out" plan. Who knew reading was so healthily cardio-vascular? I'm up to 222 entries; there are hundreds more to go, so it will be a long term project and I fully expect my thighs and tush to look splendid by summer.
This library project reacquainted me with books I never knew I had. More correctly, at one time I knew I had but had forgotten I did. And what marvelous books are living here! I do believe that if I was cast away on a deserted island, or up on a mountain top in Tibet, with no contact with the outside world and without much knowledge of it, I could cover my education quite well if these books were with me. There are certainly a few clunkers and some pulpy fiction; but, they could only work to make me a nicely rounded human being.
I managed to hang on to a great many of my school books - from kindergarten on. So, I imagine if I was dropped on that island or mountain top as a child who knew the alphabet, I would be able to start with the reading primers and eventually work my way through a degree in history or English lit, or, for some reason...botany. I only recall taking several biology classes in high school and none in college, so I am not certain why I have so many books that cover photosynthesis, geotropism and Gregor Mendel. I suspect some of these were the result of my newly gained interest in gardening when I moved to the Southeast; others must have belonged to my children. I would be able to learn German, Spanish and Latin...and psychoanalyze myself, taking notes in Gregg Shorthand, seeing as I have volumes 1 and 2 of "The Diamond Jubilee Series"! I can actually still read some of the squiggles that make up shorthand. Unfortunately, if I wanted to learn Greek I would be out of luck, but I would be able to discover Why The Greeks Matter and that John Adams thought it was sacrilege that his son, John Quincy, was not reading Demosthenes at school. I do not believe I have anything by Demosthenes, but I haven't been up and down all the bookshelves yet, so there may be some surprises in store.
What I have found so far, not surprisingly, is I have a great many books about history - ancient, European, American, Russian, modern...but I was very surprised to see that I have so many by or about Presidents, politics and First Ladies. de Tocqueville once observed that there is hardly a political question in the United States which does not, sooner or later, turn into a judicial one. So, naturally, a girl needs a compendium that contains everything she would want to know about the Supreme Court and its decisions. Oh, and also a compendium on skin care, diet and an figuring out what hair style looks best with her face shape. That is a very important reference work as well. Sherlock Holmes, inspecting my bookshelves, would deduce that I was avidly interested in the Civil War. He would be correct - as always. He might also be embarrassed to learn that I was deeply smitten with him and have followed his every sleuthing moment...repeatedly and without boredom...to the dog-eared detriment of The Complete Adventures of himself. Of course, considering his ego he may find such adoration "elementary."
There are volumes of mystery, murder, mayhem, ghostly tales, spies and the Classics. Christie and Sayers and Poe and Wilkie Collins - they stand around with their cocktails and canapes and get along quite well, carrying on some very interesting conversations about poison. Gertrude Stein is, as usual, talking about herself and boring everyone within earshot. Sylvia Plath just looks morose. I think it's because she can't smoke in the house. Ron Weasley is trying to find a Horcrux and Sigmond Freud is just trying to find himself - a total couch potato if there ever was one. Sweet ole' Bill gossips about what an honorable man Brutus was, but would bury Caesar in a heartbeat rather than praise him - and we all know it. He is a sloppy drinker and spilled red wine on my carpet. "Bill, shouting 'out damn spot' does not work, trust me." Someone, hand him the Woolite.
There aren't many volumes of poetry, but the ones that hang out here are good ones. I admit, they need more friends.
There are books on sailing, knitting, sewing, and home decorating, but not about sailing while knitting. Now that would be one interesting book! There are volumes that teach the techniques of watercolor painting and how to make decorative gift boxes and objets d'art using dried herbs. And then, of course, there are the cookbooks. I never met one I didn't love. At the public library Big Book Sales, my internal GPS guides me directly to the table where they sit in all their plump and promising splendor. Assuming I could find the proper ingredients on my island or mountain, I could cook the world. I even have a book on The Story Of Cutlery (a prize find at a book sale and probably the only one still in existence...for good reason, I'm afraid).
I've also joined a self-imposed "2013 Reading Challenge" at Goodreads. Sixty books in one year. Unfortunately, even though we are only in mid-January, Goodreads informs me I am already "two books behind." Not encouraging news. The first book I've selected from my library is John Adams, by David McCullough. I believe it won the Pulitzer Prize, but I must have purchased it before the award was announced because the dust jacket does not bear the Pulitzer logo that later editions do. In any event, it has been sitting patiently for over a decade, waiting for some attention which I am happily giving it. I am currently a third of the way through and am mesmerized by every sentence. (At over 700 pages, I wonder if I should count it as two? It's a thought, but I imagine it would be cheating.)
So on and on it goes. Up the ladder, down the ladder. Dust, note, replace. Eventually I would love to have the books themselves truly organized in some efficient and meaningful way - as they are in a well-kept library. Little chance of that in the near future. As it is, they rub elbows with the oddest neighbors. But personality conflicts aside, the community remains peaceful...and I'm working those glutes.
I love the sound of your library! I am constantly purging mine (too many moves over the years) and then longing for some book I had years ago. Please do a little heavy lifting (and readng) for me....ReplyDelete
Tinky, I miss every book-friend that has slipped through my fingers. Some were lent, but never returned, others were released with the knowledge they would never be back. Nevertheless, I never forget them...decades later even. I probably need therapy.ReplyDelete
What a welcoming variety! I think Sayers deserves a lot more credit than she gets. As a writer, I thought at one point that I would try to teach myself Greek, but after years of pecking away at it, I advise: don't try it!ReplyDelete
Shelley, you're right. Agatha sucks all the limelight. I promise I won't try to learn Greek. I did love Latin, though. We had to take 4 years of it in high school. The fourth year was devoted entirely to translating Caesar's Gallic Wars. The first two years was a struggle, then it was just plain fun.ReplyDelete
You have just inspired me to do that: read from my own library this year... ok, maybe most of the time. Can't quit the addiction of going to the public library and/or bookstores almost on a daily basis, just to browse and see what's new. You have a wonderful home library, and needing a step ladder to get to your books? Sounds like Downton Abbey. ;)ReplyDelete
Rippleeffects, when we built the house, I had bookshelves built around the fireplace. They do go up to the ceiling which is about 12 feet high in that room...but not quite up to Downtown Abbey standards (much to my regret!) It's amazing what one can find in one's own library. Bet you have stuff you totally forgot about, seeing as you are a book lover and a book lover just can't resist adding. It's a great addiction.ReplyDelete
Ah Grad you made me laugh! I used LibraryThing a number of years ago to catalog my library so I know exactly what you are doing and how you are feeling, except I didn't have to climb any ladders. My husband read that John Adams book last year and loved it.ReplyDelete
Stefanie, who knows if I'll ever get all of them cataloged. But even so, that doesn't help me in finding something. I need a librarian! God bless them all.ReplyDelete
What a lovely post. I send a tribute to all your book friends and hope you have a fantastic year together. You are very good to list your books on goodreads. It's the sort of bright intention I have that never actually gets achieved.....ReplyDelete
Litlove, the Goodreads project is a work in progress that I might not ever complete. I have a lot of good intentions that wither on the vine. In fact, I'm already exhausted just with the thought of it. (P.S. I think you have a lot more books than I do, too.)ReplyDelete
I love the idea of reading the books you already have. I will follow your lead and aim to read (or re-read) 10 books this year that I already own. I'd love to see pics of those bookshelves. There's something deeply satisfying about gazing at shelves of your own books. (Except of course if they're all muddled like mine are and there's no space for new ones.)ReplyDelete
Pete, it is staggering how many books I've collected over the years that have stood idle...sometimes for decades! I bought each and every one of them for a reason, even if that reason now escapes me. I'm expecting to mine some gems.ReplyDelete
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