I wasn’t a very good reader as a kid. I struggled. But I loved books. The pages, the pictures, the covers, the smells all enticed the young me even as the words eluded me. I loved going to the library and walking down the aisles of shelves looking at the book spines and the volumes on display.
Eventually, I got the reading help I needed and those shelves became even more magical. I still visit the library and wander up and down the aisles looking at the books on the shelves. I still get the side-eye from librarians when they ask me if I need help. I also get the side-eye from kids in the children’s book section when I scour the bookshelves like an interloper in their world.
Books are magical things.
Bookshelves house that magic. Bookshelves arrange and display the magic, keeping it safe and accessible.
My son recently bought a house and moved out. I took over his old room as my office. My first real office! After the remodeling and painting, I moved in. Desk. Chairs. Rug. Bookshelves!
I can proudly say that I was able to move my book collection from the myriad of shelf spaces around the house to my new bookshelf setup. My wife even found an awesome little companion bookshelf at a garage sale to showcase the special books in my book collection.
Shelves of Power
All this shelf work got me thinking about how the books on our bookshelves say volumes about who we are as readers, writers, and human beings.
What can our bookshelves tell us about ourselves? Do the contents reflect our personality? Our likes?
How about our goals and dreams?
Pause for a moment and look at the individual books on your bookshelf. Do they bring up a memory of a time or place? Did they teach you something new or how to do something better?
I have books which have entertained me for years—books I’ve read half a dozen times and discovered something new each time. There are books on the shelf which remind me of family. Some titles I remember being on the limited bookshelf in the house where I grew up. There are the World Book encyclopedias and their companion yearbooks, circa 1971 thru 1987, my parents purchased for us six kids at a great financial sacrifice.
On my bookshelf, there are the books I read to my kids while they sat on my back on the bedroom floor and listened before falling asleep. There’s the complete hardback set of Harry Potter books, with the Goblet of Fire to Deathly Hallows books bought in the pre-dawn hours of their release days. Sports books, coaching books, writing books, classics, science texts, mentor texts, my growing Native American author section, etc. A seemingly random assortment of books in a myriad of subject matter, but books which reflect who I am and/or who I want to be.
A whole life represented. A collection of hopes and dreams. Some of the threads woven into the fabric that has become my middle-grade-leaning writing voice. Each book on the shelf traveling in orbit through my personal universe.
How about your bookshelves? Do they represent more of who you are or who you want to be? Or a nice mixture of both?
Take a stroll down the aisle of your local library.
Can you get a picture of who your community is by the books shelved there? Is the personality of the community reflected in the titles on the shelves? Can you get a sense of place by walking the shelves of your local library?
If you have the good fortune to live near or have access to a college or university, have you ever visited its libraries?
From my experiences, I can honestly say they are marvelous places. The main library, the college-specific libraries, and the technical libraries, all work in concert to represent the institution and its mission. Liberal arts, engineering, medicine, agriculture, law, whatever the main focus of the institution is, it’s reflected on the shelves of its libraries.
To lit-minded folks like us, a bookshelf is more than a mere piece of furniture. Much more.
Bookshelves house our life maps. They act as our compass for when we get lost. They’re our windows to the imagination. They contain magical doors to possibility and potential, knowledge and hope. As I sit here and look a the bookshelf I’ve put together, I’m reminded of the impact those books sitting on those shelves have on the formation of me as a human being. The sofa doesn’t do that. The rocking chair doesn’t. The end table is just an end table. A bookshelf just a piece of furniture? No way!
Please tell us about your favorite bookshelf. Share a photo or share what that particular bookshelf means to you. You can leave your bookshelf love in the comments below or on Twitter. Let’s have some fun with this and tweet your message to @mixedupfiles and hashtag it with #MUFbookshelf.
Enjoy the rest of your summer!
Read. Write. Repeat.