I once had a bunch of writer friends come for lunch and the first thing they did was swarm all over the bookcase in my living room. It was 6 feet tall, 3 1/2 feet wide and stuffed with books.
As they roamed the shelves, pulling out books and pointing to titles, I was completely unprepared to feel as naked as I did. I’d no idea how much my books showed who I was.
These days my bookcases are all in one space (not the living room), and I looked them over before sitting down to write this, wondering what they said about me now.
Some definitely speak of the past—the time I spent trying to write a thriller, for example. I kept the books on weapons and poisons and autopsy tales because I still enjoy dipping into them from time to time. (I remember being amused as I read one of those books while sitting on the train at rush hour. The train was packed with people but no one stood in front of me.)
Some are a mix of past and present. I love to reread books so there are many treasured favorites even while I’m always on the hunt for new ones. I have shelves stuffed with westerns, mysteries, scifi/fantasy, cookbooks, craft books, and a host of others. Each book, each category, adds another facet that reveals who I am.
And I wonder if, aesthetics aside, that’s another reason why my books are tucked away in a space people rarely get to see. Is it the reason house design magazines rarely, if ever, display books? Are they afraid they might inadvertently bare something personal about themselves or the home they’re showcasing?
I used to look at home decorating magazines and feel frustration. Where were the books? Where did they fit inside that beautiful décor? Aren’t books beautiful? Don’t they inspire interest and communication?
Maybe it’s time to show them off. A little at a time, just as we show different faces of ourselves to the world in different situations. Maybe I should leave a book or two in the living room—not just the coffee table book, but my battered paperback copies.
What do your books say about you?