The bookshelf philosophy of mine, mine, mine, keep out

Today I feel compelled to weigh in on the vital blogworld debate over which books you are ethically allowed to display on your bookshelf. On one side you have the people who believe you should display only the books that you have read cover to cover. On the other side you have the folks who believe your books should manifest your aspirational self: you have never actually read the Dostoevsky novels on your bookshelf but you consider yourself the kind of person who reads Dostoevsky.

Fortunately I have now read enough books that I can relax and just buy the ones with appealing jackets.

My Mistress’s Sparrow Is Dead

A Good and Happy Child

I normally borrow from the library, but every once in a while I go on a book-buying spree to freshen up my shelves. Last year I spent a fortune on the night I finished Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. I decided I was going to become a popular scientist and so I bought every volume Stephen Jay Gould had ever written. Then I lost interest. But roughly once every three years I am called to science or medicine for a few days, even though I can’t add or subtract numbers or floss my own teeth. I will keep these unread popular science books on my shelf until the next time I convince myself that I can be a dinosaur expert or cure cancer.

Recently I bought the works of a dozen Virginia Festival of the Book authors at Barnes & Noble, using up all my Christmas giftcards. I purchased these books because they weren’t available at the library on the day I absolutely had to have them, but I also wanted Festival authors to know that I support them financially. Maybe Colm Toibin will add an extra set of hearts and xoxo’s when he autographs my expensive paperback copy of Mothers and Sons. I practically paid for your shoes, Irishman.

I’m not making my point about bookshelves very clear. My point is that you can’t borrow any of my books because I need ALL of them, even the ones I’m never going to read. In fact, don’t even come into my office. I have started putting picture frames and knick-knacks in front of the books in order to camouflage my awesome collection. Half the time I can’t even find what I’m looking for, but that reassures me that no one else can either.

[I hope what I just ate off my desk was a granola crumb and not a booger.]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post Navigation