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Tour of the library

May 13, 2015

IMG_2740We’ve lived in our house for more than twenty years now—long enough to collect thousands of books without having to think about moving them and long enough, in ever-rainy Ohio, to have to spend thousands of hours and dollars to deal with storm drain issues in the finished downstairs level where most of the bookshelves are. Since April 2012, when we put our downstairs library back together after a big storm, we have been arranging the books and adjusting the drainage, kind of making sure we could trust the house to protect its contents if we slept or went away for the weekend.

Right now our shelves are as well-arranged as they’ve been since the 2012 upheaval, and I’ve been making sure to enjoy it before both kids come home from college and add the contents of their closets and bookshelves to the storage space we have downstairs. I thought you might enjoy a bookshelf tour of our house, which includes every room except the bathrooms.

IMG_2727Upstairs, our living room has a 4-shelf built-in bookcase that always ends up stacked two rows deep with other books in front of it on the floor, because we put some of our favorite and most frequently-consulted books in it, and then stack books we’ve just read or are meaning to read soon in front of them, and then the ones on the floor are mostly books I’ve read but Ron or Eleanor or Walker haven’t read and have been meaning to read. A few of these are borrowed books, so I want to keep them upstairs and handy for giving back when the time comes. Some of these really need to be carried downstairs, now that I look at them. Probably all of us who are going to read them anytime soon have already read them.
IMG_2729I have stacks of books on one of the tables, for various projects. I notice that one of the “projects” is a gift I’m bringing to another book blogger when I come to visit her in early June. I wonder if she can read the pink post-it with her name on it. Anyway, that item is waiting to be joined by the book I’ve ordered to give her parents, who have invited us to stay at their house, with its beautiful built-in bookshelves.

IMG_2730There are more stacks of books on my desk, which is an enormous Chinese antique handed down from a great-aunt. I’m doing something with all of these books, eventually. The blog piles tend to be on the right-hand side of the desk. Some of my teaching books ended up in the middle. There’s a raft of papers for my administrative job on the left-hand side of the desk, with some books I’ve borrowed from a colleague who will be team-teaching a course with me next fall.

IMG_2731Walker has a lot of chess books but also a fair amount of other kinds of books in his room. This is before he brings home all the books he has with him at college. I wonder if the chess library will stay with us for a while, or if he will luck into a job so lucrative that he can take it with him soon after he graduates from college.

IMG_2732Eleanor has a lot of the YA books which originally belonged to her on her shelves, and a rotating selection of books I’ve recommended to her or she’s brought home for me on the beside table. When she graduates next week, she will bring home a bookshelf full of books she likes to reread, plus any of the books from her English and History courses that she wants to keep.

IMG_2734My bedside table has books for when I’m not feeling well underneath, and books I think I might like before going to sleep on the top of it. I have to keep the front clear for Tristan, who likes to stretch out on it in the early hours of the morning. We also have a small bookshelf in our bedroom, stacked and double-stacked with books I’m just about to do something with, or so I think, anyway.  IMG_2733

IMG_2756The kitchen has one shelf of cookbooks, many of them with recipes for tea sandwiches and scones.

IMG_2735Downstairs, at the foot of the stairs, are our sturdiest bookshelves, bought from “Cargo furniture” in Maryland in the 1980’s. They hold most of our biggest hardbacks, and they also accumulate DVDs since they’re near the TV.

IMG_2753Most of the rest of the bookshelves are “Billy” shelves from IKEA. We’ve added extra shelves here and there to get in as many rows of differently-sized books as possible.  As you can see, it’s a long, bright room. There are some DVD shelves nearest the white couch, which is angled towards the TV. We’ve had those arranged with movies in alphabetical order on the top and TV series on the bottom, but we’re about to clean out the TV series and let movies take over the entire set of shelves, with the TV series DVDs going out to be double-stacked somewhere else. We’ll have to think of where. These are so antiquated now anyway that it hardly seems worth the trouble to keep them in order, but the whole point is so that when we’re in the mood to watch Buckaroo Banzai, we can pull it right out, and even take it somewhere else.

IMG_2737We have a lot of children’s books, even though we gave away a lot of the ones we didn’t much like when the kids got too old for them. How could I ever give away the Mr. Putter and Tabby collection, though? We still read The Birthday Book on someone’s birthday, and Santa Calls at Christmastime!IMG_2738

We still reread the Swallows and Amazons books and the Harry Potter series, which we have in different volumes given to various ones of us at various times and in both the UK and US. And yes, there are a few VHS next to the children’s books, ones we couldn’t replace and keep because we do still have a dual VHS/DVD player.

IMG_2739IMG_2751Some of the YA books are kind of separate from the children’s books. Because we’re sorting by size as well as by topic, we haven’t made much of a distinction except between picture books and chapter books. Even then, you may notice some books for tiny hands lurking at the very top of one bookcase, where an extra shelf made room especially for very small books. And yes, we do have a Lord of the Rings chess set on top of the shelves here.

IMG_2749There’s a Tolkien section. It’s a bit double-stacked because some of the books were upstairs and we haven’t expanded the section yet to fit them in. The non-fiction may have to move out to another bookcase or get sorted more strictly into different kinds of non-fiction or something. There’s a space where some non-fiction got taken out already. I am not, as you probably already know, a big reader of non-fiction, so I mostly leave that to Ron. Every once in a while I can still amaze Walker by producing a book he’s expressed an interest in reading from these non-fiction shelves downstairs. A lot of our non-fiction has actually gone to live on bookshelves in Ron’s office at the college. That’s a sneaky way of expanding bookshelf room.

IMG_2743We have several sections of baseball books. These are Ron’s. He’s fun to go to a game with, because he can tell you things about the guy who’s coming up to bat, like what he batted last time and what kind of hit he’s likely to get. I’d never been to a baseball game before Ron took me to see the Orioles when we lived in Maryland. He said that part of the object of the game was to eat something different every inning. We passed this on to our kids when we took them to see the local minor league team, where you get to sit closer and there are a lot more foul balls knocked into the stands. No matter how we try to space it out, though, none of us have ever made it past the seventh inning, even for ice cream.

IMG_2747Here’s a section for classics, books on satire, and books written in the 18th century. I used to have a desk down here, back when I was working on my dissertation and could climb up and down the steps more times per day. Now we’ve filled in below the white shelves that used to fit over my desk with more shelves. There are plays in the small section to the far left. When we filled in the section we’re calling “classics” we put any book we’d ever studied or taught in a literature class, which ended up including some of the Otterbein “common books” from the years I taught there, like Bombingham, by Anthony Grooms.

IMG_2745This wall is mostly for novels that were fairly new when I first read them. A lot of the books I’ve read since I started this blog are here, and a lot of what I think of as kind of disposable contemporary fiction. John Grisham, for example. If we’re going to Half-Price Books in Columbus I will sometimes look at these shelves to see if there’s one or two I didn’t particularly like but bought at the airport or on impulse. Then I take it and get a little trade-in value towards buying something else.

Here’s some of the science fiction, in the shelves. On top of these shelves is a miscellaneous collection of books that was on the floor underneath the built-in bookshelves in our living room and we haven’t put them all in where they belong yet. We have to do that before we can bring down the next collection of floor books. So probably the next time somebody who doesn’t come to our house all the time plans a visit.

IMG_2754Here is another shot to show you how the walls of the downstairs are lined with bookcases. This is the left-hand side of the room. Do you see the empty table with bins underneath? That’s ready to receive the stuff coming home from college. The bins already have some winter clothing that came home at spring break. By the time the bins are filled up again, Eleanor will be graduated from college!

IMG_2752I’m going to knock on wood before saying that our library is completely put back together. We’ve had fun arranging and rearranging it, though.IMG_2748

…How else would we know where a particular book is when we want it, unless we’re looking through them all the time?

34 Comments leave one →
  1. May 13, 2015 8:43 am

    This was fun! Unanswered questions: how often do you lose books, replace them, and then find them again? Do you buy multiples of your favorites because pretty editions? Or because you require a gorgeous hardback AND a tatty paperback? I find l am envious of the superior book-preserving climate of Ohio ( v. Louisiana) because even your tattiest books don’t look as wretched as some of mine do. Also: very excited to hear about a NEW BOOK FOR ME!

    • May 13, 2015 9:17 am

      We don’t often lose books, but we did replace a few we couldn’t find when a kid needed a title we knew we owned for a college class and then we found the older edition later, because that was when the library was in upheaval.
      We try not to buy multiples. The first thing we did when Ron and I got married was to take our duplicate books to a second-hand store, trade them in, and get new books that we both owned. Sometimes he tries to comb out multiples I own because of teaching copies, but I like to keep those for the marginal notes. We are really not very prone to the kind of book collecting that values pretty editions, nice covers, or hardbacks. Often I won’t buy a book until it comes out in paperback. Our books are well-handled but I guess the cool and usually dry climate downstairs is pretty good for them–we have a dehumidifier down there to keep it dry.
      The funny thing about your present (glad you knew it was for you) is that I ordered a copy with a particular cover. It’s actually the UK cover.

  2. freshhell permalink
    May 13, 2015 9:00 am

    Holy crap, that’s a lot of books.

    • May 13, 2015 9:09 am

      That’s pretty much what the water reclamation people came in and said. Only their verbiage was “a ton of content.”

  3. May 13, 2015 9:12 am


    • May 13, 2015 9:19 am

      I think that two book lovers plus twenty years in the same house equals about this many books.

  4. Ron permalink
    May 13, 2015 9:18 am

    When asked “How many books do you have?” I usually say, “Not enough.”

    • May 13, 2015 9:20 am

      Oh good. Because I just read about this one book that we should get.

  5. Jonna permalink
    May 13, 2015 10:24 am

    This is seriously fantastic, Jeanne!

  6. Rita Dailey permalink
    May 13, 2015 11:38 am

    Wow! And I thought I had a lot of books! I am showing this to my husband, so that he understands how the homes of REAL book collectors look! 🙂 In recent years, I find myself giving more books away to family, friends, book club members, etc. than I shelve. If I really enjoy a book, I want to share it with others, which I guess is what you do here. Thank you for that!

    • May 13, 2015 3:01 pm

      You’re welcome! We do share our books with kids and friends. If I find myself reluctant to loan a book, I look around to see if I can find a duplicate copy and give it away.

  7. Paula permalink
    May 13, 2015 1:59 pm

    This was an awesome tour, Jeanne – and the reorganized shelves look great! Good use of empty-nesting time.

    • May 13, 2015 3:03 pm

      I’m glad you could see how orderly everything is, before a bit of chaos descends again.

  8. May 13, 2015 3:35 pm

    Wow! That was fun! Do you have all your books cataloged? I spy Veganomicon on your cookbook shelf. It is one of my favorite vegan cookbooks. Is someone in your house vegan?

    • May 13, 2015 3:41 pm

      Ron has tried various ways of cataloguing our books, including a very early library thing account, but no, we add to and occasionally subtract from the collection without keeping any records.
      I’m not sure I know anyone (besides you, virtually) who is a vegan, but I tend to like vegetarian cookbooks, so someone gave me that one to look through for inspiration a few years ago. We occasionally get tired of our meal repertoire and learn how to make something new.

  9. May 13, 2015 7:55 pm

    It looks beautiful! I am glad to hear that you have a designated section for satire. That seems super important, like where would you even be without a dedicated satire section. :p My own books are — well, fewer, as I am always afraid budget catastrophe will strike my current job and I will have to move back to NYC, land of fewer bookshelves and less space. But I have a new eight-foot-long bookshelf acquired, and it is immediately full. I tried to keep some space on the shelves for bric-a-brac — that was a pipe dream.

    • May 13, 2015 8:47 pm

      Well, sometimes I feel like Captain Obvious about this, but then I realize that not everyone knows I wrote my dissertation on satire.
      I do remember those days of moving around, when you kind of wanted to keep your possessions pared down to what you could move yourself.
      As you can see in some of the photos (I think) we believe that the place for various pieces of bric-a-brac is in front of some of the books, not in between. We have less and less of that after all the flooding, though. I had a lot more photos in frames at one point.

      • Jenny permalink
        May 15, 2015 4:30 pm

        I am a person who did not know that! I would love LOVE to hear about your dissertation sometime.

        • May 15, 2015 9:20 pm

          The short version is that it was on late 17th and 18th century ironic personal panegyric–that is, blame of a person that pretends to be praise. One of my favorite satirists called himself “Peter Pindar” and wrote lots of odes pretending to praise King George III.

  10. May 13, 2015 10:17 pm

    That was the first truly interesting I’ve ever taken. The way the page arranges itself it’s as if the reader is going down from level to level, until reaching the catacombs. I was expecting the last picture to show either the ultimate arcana of Melchizedek, or the erotic editions of Karl Marx. A pleasure to wander through.
    I cautiously interject one note of caution. You say that you have been in your house twenty years already. You guys are young and can surely can project another quarter century of bibliomania. Have you done a straight-line projection of where this mania is leading? You could shore up the footers of your house, but I would recommend a three-storey annex with an atrium, circular staircases, and reading chaises on each level.

    • May 14, 2015 9:28 am

      Alas, we don’t own the Melchizedek arcana or any erotic Marx… we do have Uncle Shelby’s ABZ book, given to us some years ago by the Merrills, and which we hid from our kids among the other books.
      I wound down to a small bookcase with some poetry teaching books, but I could just as well have used another small bookcase I forgot to picture which is filled with history books. I’ll do that in the pick-your-own-adventure edition of the blog.
      Ron has considered stacks coming out from the wall, but I don’t believe he’s done a straight-line projection. We were down there measuring for one more wall bookcase last night, but perhaps you’re right and we should go straight for the three-storey annex with atrium!

  11. May 13, 2015 10:18 pm

    …truly interesting _library tour_…

  12. May 14, 2015 11:46 am

    LOVE! How fun it would be to house sit for you…

    • May 15, 2015 9:22 pm

      Except that one of our house sitters ended up helping us out by using the wet vac on a section of downstairs carpet that got soaked last summer.

      • May 18, 2015 6:13 pm

        yaknow, I am still ever so grateful for the Joyce/Ulysses/Ireland book you sent me and if you need it back, I do know exactly where it is – in case it was a borrow and I screwed up by hoarding it this long. Since, cough-cough, I haven’t yet gotten all the way through that masterpiece. 😉
        And I know how to use a wet vac.

        • May 18, 2015 6:14 pm

          How many reply nestings does your blog allow? I meant to change the subject and add that I cannot believe your dot is graduating. Weren’t we just reading about how you were logistically-challenged to drop her off for her Freshmen year? huh.

        • May 20, 2015 9:19 am

          The book about Ulysses was a gift, not a loan! And I’ll keep you in mind for house-sitting if you have wet vac skills.
          Yes, Eleanor has graduated from college.Now she’s home for a month before she begins her next adventures.

  13. Jenny permalink
    May 15, 2015 4:32 pm

    This was so, so satisfying. I was just pondering doing a rearrangement of my own books (and possibly adding some shelves, or putting the games somewhere else, or getting rid of some of the toy bins…) because even though I get 90%+ of what I read from the library, I am still at capacity at home. You have the sort of house I feel at home in, where anything I want to read is immediately at hand!

    • May 15, 2015 9:23 pm

      Almost anything. But yes, I do consult our books quite a bit. I was thinking of a part from a children’s book by Faulkner the other day, and so I went downstairs and looked at it and reread some.

  14. May 24, 2015 10:03 am

    Wow! I’m a little worried that so much of this library is in a basement in Ohio, ’cause you just never know with basements, but wow!!

    I have a book catalogue phone app that reads bar codes so I don’t have punch in the IBSN number. It’s kept me from buying a book I already own many times. It was free as I recall. It would take you a week to put all of your book in it but i bet you all would really enjoy it.

    • May 24, 2015 11:21 am

      We didn’t use to be, but now share your worry that so much is in the basement in this wet, wet place. On the other hand, we now have a sump pump.
      I’ll mention the book catalogue phone app to Ron, who is the one who likes to catalogue the books, having more of a librarian mindset than I do.
      I don’t recall ever buying a book I already own unless it’s to give to someone, sometimes just to one of the kids who wants his/her own copy.

  15. May 24, 2015 10:26 am

    I love this! I hope when the boyfriend and I are done moving we can get into a place where I can make every wall a bookshelf. For now we have to do constant paring down of books because eventually we’ll have to move again and books are heavy 🙂

    How did you decide on the organization? Was it a matter of space, or were the books always arranged generally topically? Mine are, for the most part, split by fiction/nonfiction and then alphabetical, so I’m curious about a different method.

    • May 24, 2015 11:17 am

      They were always arranged topically, although we had some space issues with the extra shelves, suitable for paperbacks, and having hardbacks too big to fit in the shelf where there should go by topic and author. Especially with the SF, we have some separate shelves for hardback and paperback copies, so to find a book, we have to remember if we bought it in hardback for some reason.

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