It’s just before 8am on a Sunday. Everyone else is asleep in the house, but I’m up – animals fed and Xander the rooster crowing his fool head off to bring the rest of the world to awakeness with us.  It’s a peaceful time.

Bookshelf vignette from Flickr via Wylio

It’s not my bookshelf, but I think it’s awesome. © 2012 Emma, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

I’m sitting on our coach in the reading room we have just finished putting together in our new farmhouse.   Across the room, P’s grandfather’s table sits ready for our first puzzle, which we selected after midnight last night when we had put away the final things.  It’s “Aunt Fay’s Market” and shows a beautiful farm stand that will, no doubt, inspire the one we’ll build at the end of the road here.

A bit closer to me, my grandfather’s red velvet chair sits ready for a great book and a cup of tea. Across its back is a purple throw that I received when I worked with Relay For Life.  Between the chair and where I sit, a worn shipping trunk acts as a coffee table, its finish flaking off in just the perfect way.

The couch itself doesn’t speak to any great sentiment for me, and Meander has chewed away its corners. . . but it is deep and perfect for sitting cross-legged or taking a long nap.  In time, we will replace it with something more reasonable in proportion but equally comfortable. Then, this couch will travel out to the office next door, so I can take long naps here between words.

The room includes 3 bookshelves, all built from oak by my father.  They stand over six feet tall and have traveled the U.S. with me for over 10 years.  They speak of my father’s love for me and of our mutual tendency to weary of a project near the end – the top shelf of one slants quite markedly, making it perfect for taller books on the left-hand side above and the right-hand below.

Here, I can sit close with the books I love, and in the past few days, while I’ve sidled up to these pages, I’ve realized a few things about my book habits.

  • I buy a LOT of books simply because I hear they will be great, because my friends have written them, because they are on a subject or by a writer I adore.  And I keep them until I do read them.  So most of the books on these shelves I have not read.
  • I do not keep many books after I read them with a few exceptions:
    • novelists whose work I love, books on writing (memoirs, textbooks, writing guides, etc),
    • books on farming/gardening/homesteading (which now occupy 2 full shelves),
    • books by my favorite religious authors (Kathleen Norris, Anne Lamott, C.S. Lewis, Thomas Merton)
    • and books on racism and the legacy of slavery (which fill 3 overflowing shelves).
  • I like the story my books tell about my life. They reveal who I am and about what I am passionate.  It used to be that I bought copies of “the classics” whenever I saw them at used bookstores, but I almost never read them. Now, my book collection feels more authentic, and in that, it reflects the way I am living my life.

In fact, this whole room speaks to some things I’ve found to be essential to live – memories, family, friends, comfort, history, and the opportunity for new. I love that.

I hope you’ll come by the farm sometime, maybe on a cold winter’s afternoon. We can read together – bring your own book or pull one off the shelf here – by the warmth of the woodstove.  I’d love to share this space with you.

What books do you buy? Keep? And what do your bookshelves say about you?