Shelf life

“One’s bookshelf is a window into one’s soul. And one’s housekeeping skills.” – Me

Inspired by Letizia at Reading Interrupted, who was in turn inspired by Jilanne Hoffman, I’ve decided to expose myself to the world, and this time I won’t get arrested.

bookshelf 004

Crooked lampshade? Check. Guitar? Check. Basketball? Check. School crafts made by now-grown children? Check and check.

This is our bookshelf. It is one of the few things in our house that I made myself. There’s this, there’s the wooden gavel that I made in wood shop (the only time I got lathed in high school, but certainly not the only time I’ve made that joke), and there’s the mitten dryer, which consists of a piece of scrap wood with holes drilled into it and bent coat hangers poked in the holes to prop up soggy mittens and gloves. I know; the mitten dryer is the coolest, but I still feel the bookshelf is my crowning, sagging achievement.

There are books here that we’ve dragged with us from university in New Brunswick to Toronto to Halifax to Montreal, through  several apartments and finally our home here in Stanstead. We keep telling ourselves we must undertake a purge someday — a literary cull. But we never do. We just can’t bring ourselves to cast them off, even though I am never likely to re-read Restoration and 18th Century Comedy or ever get around to reading Vineland by Thomas Pynchon if I haven’t done so by now. Consequently, the books have begun to spill over the side and in piles on the floor and upon side tables and on top of bed stands. If these were newspapers, we’d be hoarders. But they’re books, so we get to call ourselves “collectors.”

All I can say is: thank god for libraries.

bookshelf 006

I’m never going to read that Kenneth Roberts book.

So there it is, my life in a nutshell: disorganized, cluttered, eclectic, somewhat fraudulent, hampered by sentiment, dusty, saggy and unkempt. But I take comfort in it.

bookshelf 009

Medieval Drama? Puh-lease!

I showed you mine, now you show me yours.

Related post: My book store fantasy

About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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34 Responses to Shelf life

  1. pinklightsabre says:

    Pretty, pretty things…ah shit they’re like sweaters, aren’t they? Might need one of them some day, and each has some kind of memory – or the possibility of a memory.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Or one of my kids might say, “Dad, do you have any prize-winning short stories from 1983?” Actually, sometimes they do say, “I need a book…” That’s when I turn into the Book Dealer, the Pulp Pusher: “Here, man, try this Vonnegut… How about a hit of Tom Wolfe?”

  2. Tez says:

    Books are like friends, aren’t they? Nearly ten years ago, before traveling around Australia in a campervan, I got rid of ALL my possessions including the books. Saying goodbye to the books left me bereft, everything else was just stuff, but I quickly learnt to live without them. Befriending public libraries in every place I stopped was wonderful and I met some brilliant librarians. Now my library resides in my laptop, but I still love my public library and the wonderful librarians. (I’d take a picture of my laptop but I don’t know how to include it when using WordPress messages.)

  3. Tez says:

    Wow! I’ve just noticed you have Thurber and Oscar Wilde and A.S. Byatt. You’re my new hero 🙂

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Thurber is inspiring and Oscar Wilde was a genius, though I have to say he hasn’t moved from that spot in quite a while. The Byatt I haven’t read yet. That’s the problem with bookshelf books: I know they’ll be there when I want them so I end up borrowing or buying others instead. But that’s it! I’m reading that one this summer!

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Just finished Angels & Insects. What a rich pair! I had seen the film version of the first novella so read it with a keen sense of foreshadowing and eye on metaphor. Loved it. The second was much denser and a tougher read, but I loved the way Byatt, in the first novella, focuses on skepticism and doubt and in the second asks the reader to set that all aside and just go with the notion that spirits do communicate with us! Thanks for being the impetus to read this.

  4. Wow!! I just love bookshelves that look like this!! Too neat and tidy shelves do not give that personal touch for me… No, the e-books will never win over the paperbacks as long as people as crazy as us live on!! 😉
    Great to have chanced upon your blog!
    Cheers!! 🙂

  5. Karen says:

    I’ve moved around a bit, as well, and, unlike you, the result of those experiences is that I purge regularly. I have to say, looking at that bookshelf would made me think only about what a pain it would be packing and unpacking and lifting those boxes.

    I have two hard copy novels of my own right now in my house: Esmeralda Santiago’s When I Was a Puerto Rican, and a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird that I plan to read with my daughters this summer. After we finish TKAM, I’ll probably pass that along to someone else. I really love When I Was a Puerto Rican, though. I’ve hung onto that for over a year now.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      The thought of packing up those books is one of the reasons I resist selling our house.

      Never heard of the Santiago (will check it out), and TKAM has been on my re-read list for some time.

  6. Letizia says:

    So cool that you did this! I love that you made the bookshelves yourself and that it has survived your many moves (having moved around a lot myself, I know this is not easy!).

    Oscar Wilde, Anne Rice, Medieval Drama… love the mix!

  7. I LOVE bookshelves. I love them – I love them just like yours are. I love them so much, I got rid of our dressers and we keep our clothing in bookshelves. I love your bookshelves – and if we had snow, I’d ask you for your patented glove drier.

  8. denmother says:

    Who calls themselves a book collector and doesn’t display 50 Shades?

  9. YOU HAVE A BOOK NOOK!! (yes, I’m yelling, the uppercase is deliberate) I could have one like that too but I’d have to do some serious rearranging. My bookshelves are as cluttered as yours are. There’s nothing sadder than bookshelves that are sparsely stocked. I don’t think you and I have any of the same books, though, from what I can tell. I have a lot of books I probably won’t read again too, but I don’t have the heart to get rid of them. I’d feel like I was abandoning a friend.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      I don’t think it’s so much a nook as nookish. (“Funny, you don’t look nookish…”) You’re right about the books as friends; there’s a comfort in just knowing they’re there. If only they would lend me money, the analogy would be perfect.

  10. I Love this!!! I need to photo my bookshelves. After I move and they’re beautiful…THEN I’ll photo! PS your mitten dryer is hilarious and feels very Canadian. I don’t mean that as an insult!

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Yes, I would have to agree there. Drying mittens in front of forced-air heating ducts. Yes, definitely. Not today, though. Stinking hot. Also very Canadian.

  11. My eyes go immediately to One Fell Soup. Can’t wait to find out what that’s about. Gotta run right now. I’ll be back! Thank you sooooooo much for playing! The more the merrier, as they say.

  12. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    My idea of paradise on earth? A bookshelf in every room. I will never replace my books with a Kindle. That would be an awfully empty, lonely bookshelf. I have that exact Riverside Shakespeare – gotten during one of my favorite courses in college. It’s a treasure!

  13. ClewisWrites says:

    Someone mentioned this post in a comment on my blog so I came over to check it out. I am so happy to have found another kindred spirit when it comes to “collecting” books! I love your shelf. I have my shelves (smaller and not as grand) spread throughout the house, some read repeatedly and others I must have liked something on the first page or so to have bought it but just haven’t fully read it yet.. I just cannot bring myself to get rid of them either.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Ha! Nothing in my house has ever been referred to as “grand” before! We too have books all over the place. I kind of like it that way. Plus, if you have a wobbly table, something handy to slide underneath.

  14. Yours looks a lot like mine, including a copy of Vineland. I’ve read it twice now, and I still couldn’t tell you what it’s about! (And, like you, I can’t seem to let go of my English Lit. anthologies…)

  15. monicahlv says:

    The hardest thing I ever had to do was purge my books when we moved from Las Vegas to Sweden. You can only take so much weight, and books weigh a ton! I remember sitting there near to tears trying to decide which books I could not live without. Most of them were were complete or nearly complete collections such as Anne Rice, Robert Jordan, and Carole Nelson Douglas. Of course all the anthologies and the classics. I left behind a lot of books that I only read once or felt I would never read again. I like to re-read books; it is like having an old friend come over to visit. In the end, I was only able to take about 10% of my collection. My husband still complained that I was taking too many. In the four years since then I have managed to slowly rebuild my collection which now contains both English and Swedish books. I never want to move again!

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