I am of the opposite view. I love a shelf of books. When I visit someone else’s house for the first time I’m drawn to their books, to see what they’ve read.
A book shelf holds not just books of stories but memories. I have no recollection of what ‘Possession’ by A S Byatt is about but I clearly remember reading it on an overland trip across Zimbabwe. I do know ‘Middlesex‘ is the story of girl who grows into a man (a difficult plot to reduce to a sentence) and I read it under a palm tree on a beach in Cuba. On a long flight to New Zealand I read the epic ‘America’s Queen’, the life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Some books remind me of commuting into London in my youth; the Colin Macinnes’ books beginning with ‘Absolute Beginners’.
I lost a lot of books in a fire it makes me wonder if I do need to keep books at all but then I look again.
There are books on the shelf that I don’t remember where I read them but I do remember being incredibly moved by them; ‘The Women’s Room’, Marilyn French. There are books that changed me ‘The Ragged Trousered Philantropists’ and books that I simply got lost in the story, Gabriel Gracia Marquez or Maggie O’Farrell. ‘Perfume’ has the best ending. ‘Tales of the City’ Armistead Maupin was a gift from my partner after our son was born. Tucked behind some DVDs are Beatrix Potter books from my childhood.
I don’t read very much anymore and I have weeded some out but it was wrench. When I begin to try to distill my books down to collection of favorites I struggle. I had five favourites in mind when I began writing this post but that pile grew and then I gave up. I love the shelves of books and I love all the things they represent.