Tour of the library
We’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.
Upstairs, 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.
I 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.
There 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.
Walker 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.
Eleanor 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.
My 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.
Downstairs, 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.
Most 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.
We 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!
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.
Some 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.
There’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.
We 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.
Here’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.
This 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.
Here 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!
…How else would we know where a particular book is when we want it, unless we’re looking through them all the time?