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My Home Library, Present and Future

August 8, 2010

Thanks to Laura, I found the Boston Bibliophile’s home library series (and she’s now in my reader: unsure why she wasn’t there already!) which inspired me to do a post of my own on the idea. ;)

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As someone who’s been on a book acquiring ban, of more or less strictness, for over two and a half years now, the concept of a home library is more of an intellectual exercise than anything else. But such a fun exercise! And since I do eventually want to own a ‘home library’ (as opposed to ‘books I’ve acquired over the years and haven’t seen fit to get rid of somehow’), it should prove useful. ;)

Before I imagine my ideal home library, I should probably take a moment to look at the state of my current one. I’d estimate I have between 300 and 400 books, which mainly fit into 3 floor to ceiling bookcase, although right now there are a few vertical piles in front of those shelves! (However, yesterday I found a small, five-shelf bookcase at Goodwill, so those books will be organised soon.) The bookcases are the cheap kind you find at OfficeMax, and right now they have this faux oak finish that drives me crazy. But my mom and I are going to re-paint them as a project before we move (white on the the outside, light grey on the inside). The books are arranged by colour, which I’m aware some find frivolous, but I really love. I’ve played with the idea of other systems, such as geographical or chronological or thematical, but nothing quite makes sense…this way, it’s not making a statement about what I think is a book’s most important characteristic. And since I have a relatively small collection, and a visual memory, I can still find my books quickly. I’d guess about half of them have been read already and half are still patiently waiting their turn. Along with the books, I keep various knickknacks and photographs on the shelves…I like how it makes the shelves look more like a display.

The books don’t necessarily reflect the type of reader I am today, though. Many of my favourite authors are completely missing, since I read most of my books through the library. My shelves are much ‘whiter’ and less geographically diverse than my reading. There are no graphic books anywhere to be found. And my nonfiction is primarily related to languages or international relations…my more recent love of popular science and women’s studies and travelogues is barely reflected on my shelves. That being said, it’s not as if the books I own are completely unrelated to me! There’s still a mix of old and new, domestic and international, ‘highbrow’ and ‘lowbrow.’ But you wouldn’t be able to find most of the books I’ve reviewed on my blog over the last couple of years on my shelves!

Of course, does that really matter? Do I intend my home library to be just for me (my bookshelves currently live in my bedroom, so no one else sees them) or do I also want it to speak to others? And if the latter, what would I have it say? When I live on my own, I do intend to have bookshelves in my living room, and I’ll be more than happy for visitors to examine them. Of course, I’d like my shelves to reflect what I value most in my reading: diversity and curiosity. But I care more about my shelves bringing me personal happiness than about whether visitors will judge me based on them. So how to go about creating that happiness?

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If I magically won a prize tomorrow that allowed me unlimited book buying for the rest of my life, there’s a simple way I’d build my home library. I’d buy all of the books of every author I love, the moment I read the first book of theirs that made me love them. That way, both already-ready and to-be-read books would be at my finger tips, and it’d be representative of who I am and the kind of books I value. Not to mention, I’d be supporting those wonderful writers! This would hold true for both fiction and nonfiction authors, so it should yield a good mix. And I think it’d be thrilling to be surrounded by authors I adore (have I mentioned how much joy my sidebar of favourite authors brings me?). Additionally, I would buy in bulk from certain smaller publishers and imprints, once I’d read enough books to realise that my taste as a reader aligned with their taste as editors! I’d do my best to collect primarily trade paperbacks also, since they’re my preferred style.
What about brand-new authors not published by trusted presses? Now that I’ve been on a book buying ban for so long, I regard the idea of buying a book by an author I haven’t read before to be somewhat ludicrous…like buying a DVD before I’ve seen the film. After all, isn’t that what public libraries are for? Of course, I’d continue to try out new authors via my library, but I wouldn’t buy books by complete unknowns for my personal library…what if I didn’t like the book? I wouldn’t want to keep it, so better I can simply return it to the library than feel guilty about the money/paper/etc. wasted.

I’m not sure how large my home library would be…obviously, it would grow over the years, and I have a lot of authors I could already name who I’d want gracing my shelves. It’s perhaps a good thing that such hypothetically unlimited book buying won’t come to pass, since it would probably end up with every wall in my house being covered!

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Back in the realm of the real-world, though, I believe that this forms the basis for a good plan for any books I do acquire (either via giveaways or accepting review copies or the occasional library sale/thrift shop extravaganza). Currently, my book buying funds are pretty much nonexistent (since I’m too ill to work), but once I have a job I’ll set aside a certain amount of money each month to build up my collections of books by authors who I want to read more of. And I’ll make it a game: in addition to new copies (most likely from The Book Depository), I’ll search used bookstores and various book sales to find those hidden gems. Not only will my budget stretch farther, but it’s more environmentally friendly and personally rewarding! (There is of course the question of supporting an author, which is why I’d be sure to buy new copies as well.) Also, while I’m not overly concerned about ‘matching’ sets of books by different authors, I will take aesthetics into account with both old and new books…I’d like my library to be a feast for the eye as well as the mind. I don’t see myself searching out books that are special as objects, though, such as first editions or signed copies.

I’ll continue to organise my books by colour…I like the kind of serendipitous mingling it allows for. But I do hope to upgrade my shelves into real wood (bought second-hand: not only for environmental reasons but also because I like pieces with a bit of history to them, imagining who owned them before me)! And since I plan to travel once I have a job, I’ll be collecting more knickknacks and photographs to decorate those shelves as well. And of course, I’d have a small bookcase dedicated just for public library books! ;) As I mentioned yesterday, in a couple of months I’ll have a reading/sitting room, so now I’m collecting decorating ideas too!

I quite enjoyed writing this post; I already had a vague idea of how I’d like to go about creating my personal home library, but this has made my thoughts much more concrete and inspirational. Of course, I could list all of the authors and publishers I want to collect, but that would make this ridiculously long. It could be the start of a new series, though, in which I could talk about authors, presses, even topics that I want in my future home library. Would y’all be interested in that? I could call it Assembling My Atheneum (or does that sound too pretentious? I just like the word because I was born in Athens, was once a Classics geek, and it has a neat double meaning), and perhaps each week or fortnight do a brief profile of an author or publisher or translator I’d love to own more of. In fact, even if y’all aren’t interested, I might do it for myself…it sounds like such fun! ;)

Back to the topic: do you think about your home library? How are you shaping it, and what purpose(s) does it serve?

94 Comments leave one →
  1. August 8, 2010 9:42 am

    Hmmmm. Do I think about my home library….in a word. ALWAYS. My girlfriend and I share a 650 sq ft apartment here in Brooklyn, which, considering my job and book habits, means we live in a library that happens to have a kitchen and a bed. Someday, I’d love to have a proper large study or den, though I can’t say I hate living right in the middle of all our books. One bonus: we to do VERY little decorating.

    • August 11, 2010 1:41 pm

      lol! I guess no worries about wall art for you. :D I don’t mind living in the middle of all of my books either, so I imagine when I have a whole house/apartment to myself, I’ll scatter bookshelves around!

  2. August 8, 2010 9:50 am

    Great post! I’m so glad you were inspired to think about the whole home-library concept. Even if no one else sees your bookcases, they can still speak to you. I love that you arrange books by color; bookshelves arranged that way always look so interesting and dynamic and fun. It’s interesting that you’re borrowing more from the library and the effect that’s had on your home collection; I think the kind of careful, selective buying that you’re thinking about is a great way to build a collection you’ll really be happy with. I have very little money to buy with; most of my books come as review copies or from used sources or trades, and I’m only spending bookstore credit on my Everyman’s volumes and other additions to the collection at this point. But little by little we’ll get there! :)

    • August 11, 2010 1:45 pm

      Thanks Marie! I think having a very small ‘library building’ fund is actually good…it makes every book a treasure and creating a collection like a scavenger hunt. You know? :)

  3. winstonsdad permalink
    August 8, 2010 9:51 am

    we re talking off moving to bigger house next year so I can have a library reading room for my books ,its my dream to have a room for all my books ,all the best stu

  4. August 8, 2010 9:54 am

    wow, this was so much fun to read. I do this all the time in my head. Since we don’t own a house and have no idea where we will settle eventually, my dream of owning a house will have to wait along with having my personal library. There is no point acquiring shelves and too many books since I might have to leave back many of them.

    I would like to arrange my books by genre’s rather than color, i don’t like the feeling of any color falling short in that respect.

    I too dream of owning all books by my fav. authors. Just thinking about it makes me feel warm.

    Anyway, I could go on and on but I do hope that you will be able to create a personal library just the way you want to, and I will be able to create mine :)

    • August 11, 2010 1:47 pm

      I get that! I’ve held back for now due to moving as well…I’m still not completely settled, but I can see moving only if I have the funds to move all of my books (and other stuff) too, so I’m not as worried about it anymore. Plus, I know my mom will always keep my books for me if I need her to! :)

  5. August 8, 2010 10:40 am

    I think most of us could have a home library as big as a house! I love the idea of arranging books by color, but I’d never find the book I was looking for if I did that.

    • August 11, 2010 1:47 pm

      I’m curious to see if as my collection grows it remains as easy to find a book by colour! Maybe when I move (and thus have to put all the books back anyway), I’ll do a little online directory.

  6. August 8, 2010 11:01 am

    I always think about my home library and what my aspirations are for it! This post was such fun to read, as I could compare your feelings on things to my own. I generally alphabetize my books by author; for some reason it’s just felt most natural to me. It is, however, still just as much fun to see who ends up with who, and I like to think what the authors would think if they knew who they were next to, especially the long-dead ones.

    I also aim to get my books a variety of ways; I usually buy new from the Book Depository, used from a variety of charity shops, and sometimes I do choose the local bookstore – even though it’s a generic, “big box” store, I’d still like to have a place with new books to browse, so I decide it’s my duty to buy from there occasionally. I definitely try to spread my money around while I can, so everyone benefits.

    • August 11, 2010 1:49 pm

      I used to organise alphabetically: it was fun to see who ended up living side-by-side! I’m glad we’re in agreement on spreading money around. :D

  7. August 8, 2010 11:05 am

    I like how you point out that color-coding leads to serendipitous mingling – I organize in the more traditional alphabetical-by-author’s-last-name style, but I still have fun with the sometimes-surprising juxtapositions of who ends up next to whom. I imagine that my bookshelves are a giant dinner party, and the authors next to each other on the shelves are seated next to each other at the table. Sometimes it’s pretty hilarious to imagine what, for example, Sylvia Plath and Marcel Proust might have to say to one another. :-)

    When David & I moved into our current place, I happened upon three wooden floor-to-ceiling double-bookshelves for SUPER-cheap at a local seminary school that was upgrading its library to one of those new metal, super-compact systems. You might keep an eye on Craig’s List or ads in the local paper for a similar steal when it comes time to upgrade to wood.

    • August 11, 2010 1:51 pm

      That’s a fun dinner party to imagine! :D Lucky you w/ your bookshelves! I definitely keep an eye on Craig’s List (especially since my dad has a pick-up, hehe), and I hope one day I come across a similar find. My dad built my mom a bookcase when they got married (isn’t that the cutest thing ever?), so I should just harass him into building some for me. ;)

  8. August 8, 2010 11:06 am

    I think about this a lot, the eventual book-buying I will do when I am wealthy. I’m not really sure what kind of book-buying habits I will have once I’m “settled”, “settled” being the word I use to describe a state of having a job and living in a home I want to keep. This mythical state of being “settled” may not actually exist. For the time being, I am always weighing my book purchases (hooray! new books!) against the time and energy it will take to move them, the next time I move. So I’m pretty cautious about buying books, and I rarely buy books I haven’t already read. It’s not the money, so much as the space. And there’s part of me that doesn’t want to have all the books I want at the exact moment I have them–I’m afraid they would stop being a treat, then. I love it when, having had a really crappy day/week/month, and I allow myself the treat of buying one book. I don’t want to lose the fun of feeling like a new book is a treat. #thinksaboutthisalot

    • August 11, 2010 1:54 pm

      I have the same mythical state of settled! But now I’ve decided that once we move to Texas, I won’t be moving again unless it’s a) close enough to enlist family & friends to help lug books or b) for a job that pays for the movers. lol So I feel more freedom to acquire books, especially since I’ll have the space! I’ve decided to just stop putting everything on ‘pause’ waiting for a kind of settled that might never happen.

      And also, since I’ll be acquiring my books super-cheaply and slowly, I also value book buying as a treat. :D

  9. August 8, 2010 11:23 am

    I would like to have a room dedicated to my books instead of having them scattered about the house, bookshelves in every room, but not sure that I want a traditional library. What I really want is to transform my dining room into a library of sorts – built-ins everywhere including over doors and windows with a huge dining table in the middle. The perfect place to entertain too. A place for conversations to run deep into the night. I have a bit of that now but not at the level I dream about.

    • August 11, 2010 1:54 pm

      That sounds lovely! When I have my own place, I definitely want bookshelves in all of the rooms, but since I’m living with my family, I’m just excited to have two rooms to myself. hehe

  10. August 8, 2010 11:29 am

    I love the idea (and title) of the series, and think you should do it. I love how well thought out and organized you are with your library plans. I buy too many books by new authors but I guess that is partly because my library is so bad so I can’t try them out first, for the most part. I love the idea of buying all their books once you find and like one though!

    • August 11, 2010 1:56 pm

      Thanks Amy! I didn’t realise I had well-thought out plans for my library until I started writing the post. Funny, right? Until then, I was just trying to avoid more books coming to the house. ;)

      If I didn’t have an incredible public library, I’m positive my home library would look very different! I can’t imagine moving to a place that didn’t have a great library system, unless it was overseas (and that’s when all of my TBR books would suddenly become important).

  11. August 8, 2010 11:58 am

    We have a library instead of a dining room but it only has about half the shelving it needs right now and, like yours, it’s the cheap variety (faux maple for me). I want to replace those three bookcases with a large built-in unit but it always comes down to money, doesn’t it? So instead, I have a massive pile of read books in another room, unread ones in my bedroom and a bunch of daydreams about a finished library with reading chairs and proper lighting and such. One day!

    • August 11, 2010 1:57 pm

      Yep, wood’s expensive! Plus, I worry about the environmental ramifications of buying new. I think dreaming is half the fun, isn’t it? :)

  12. Christa permalink
    August 8, 2010 12:03 pm

    I would be interested in reading posts about authors you want and/or topics you would like in your future library! I always find things like that fascinating. :)

  13. August 8, 2010 12:09 pm

    I already spend way too much time imaging my perfect home library! I’ve never been the kind of person who goes into a bookstore and picks things up on a whim (in fact, I’m far more likely to go into a bookstore, seeing something I’m interested in, write down the title and author, and then go home and order it from the library). The books I own are books that I’ve read and loved enough to want to reread or books by favourite authors that I’m confident I’ll enjoy, eventually. I like how bookshelves look when organized by colour (particularly with larger books) but functionally I like to have my books grouped by area of interest. I switch it up quite frequently to see if there’s a system that works better for me. Honestly, my fiction section isn’t terribly controlled right now and it does bother me. I don’t like alphabetical ordering, but I have too many random titles unrelated to any of my other interests to use any other method. I LOVE displaying random odds and ends within the bookshelf. As much as I love to look at books, I think it’s so much more interesting to have other items scattered throughout and makes it so much more personal. As a guest, those are the bookshelves I love looking at the most in other people’s homes.

    I’m trying to move home to Vancouver and, as excited as I am by the prospect of doing so, I’m heartbroken over the limited space I’ll have for my books. I have five bookshelves in my current apartment: I’ll be lucky if I can fit two into my space at my parents’ house. Time for some creative storage solutions!

    • August 11, 2010 1:59 pm

      I bookstore browse the same way! lol

      I love the combination of books w/ odds & ends too, and I always gravitate towards it in other people’s houses! That’s exciting you might be moving home to Vancouver…when I have money, I REALLY want to visit Vancouver, and it’d be so awesome to meet up with you. :) But the book thing would be difficult! I’m lucky that my mom’s a reader, so she’s always been v supportive of my book-ish habits.

  14. August 8, 2010 12:13 pm

    My first step was getting past the thought I was becoming a hoarder, as I was beginning to think there is no rhyme or reason to my purchases other than a wish to be diverse and to always have ready access to a library that is personal, eclectic, and representative of my tastes.

    That is when I realized I needed to rethink this. Hence how I came up with calling myself a Domestic Librarian.

    Shortly afterward Marie posted her mission statement. The timing was perfect!

    I am now making up my own mission statement that will include what I mentioned above: that my home library will be a reflection of me and will also be a way to create and maintain access to materials that offer personal enrichment and pleasure.

    I am also adding a Statement of Stewardship as this will help me be accountable to what I do and how I do it. It will hopefully ensure I use my resources efficiently and effectively when putting together and maintaining my home library.

    Thank you for sharing such great ideas. It’s giving me more to think about how to make this all happen. It also helps to know there are so many others out there who are thinking along the same lines. It is this knowledge that makes me know in my heart that physical books will be around for a long time to come.

    • August 11, 2010 2:04 pm

      That’s a great way to look at it! I’ve always thought of my TBR list as more of a pool to dive into when I need it rather than a to-do list, so you and I are similar in that respect. :) Can’t wait to see your mission statement! And I agree that physical books are here to stay.

  15. August 8, 2010 12:28 pm

    I love my growing library. It’s now expanded to two rooms in our home. The first is a little nook area, and D built shelves against the wall. It looks lovely. I began to feel as though it was growing crowded so I recently (like this past week!) converted one of our extra bedrooms into a reading room. We painted the room wall’s orange (I wanted something high energy) and put dark wood floors and dark brown baseboards. I have two bookshelves in there that aren’t very pretty, but it’s a work in progress. And now I’m currently looking for the idea chair (chaise lounge?) to put in the room. Any ideas on comfortable chairs?

    • August 11, 2010 2:10 pm

      I love the orange & dark wood combination! I haunted my favourite thrift shop (a Goodwill) until I found the perfect chair, so I don’t have any brand recommendations for comfortable ones. But good luck in your search! :D

  16. August 8, 2010 12:33 pm

    Great post, Eva. I love the idea of arranging by color — I’m too analytically alphabetical to do that, but I can still appreciate it!

    • August 11, 2010 2:11 pm

      I find it quite fun! For me, it gives my analytical side a bit of a break. ;)

  17. August 8, 2010 1:10 pm

    It’s all planned out in my head- it’ll start with the first apartment I have that has two bedrooms. The second bedroom will have tons and tons of shelves. Nonfiction on the left wall, fiction on the right wall. (My Tolkien collection gets its own shelf.) Arranged alphabetically, because I’ve been trained by librarians, although the chromatic thing sounds lovely. I know what books I’ll buy; some I already have.

    Sifting through thrift stores for books can be tons of fun- I actually found a first edition copy of The Two Towers at my local thrift store. (Not first printing, of course, but still.)

    • August 11, 2010 2:11 pm

      I low how much you already have planned! :D And yay for your thrift store find!

  18. August 8, 2010 3:36 pm

    Hey Eva! My mom is letting me (sort of) turn the living room into a library. I have 800+ books. I just bought another case. I’ll post pics next week.

    • August 11, 2010 2:12 pm

      That’s awesome: can’t wait for pictures! :)

  19. August 8, 2010 7:31 pm

    I really like the idea of your Assembling My Atheneum series – go for it!

    I too arrange my books on my study shelves by colour, and I also have knick knacks from my travels interspersed between them – makes a lovely display, more personal I think, and a reflection of who I am. The books people read say a lot about a person I think.

    PS: I’ve have finally added a Favourite Book Blog list on my site and you’re on it.

  20. August 8, 2010 7:46 pm

    We are waiting on two more bookshelves from Ikea to arrive. Then finally my library in the living room will be done. For now! I already think we might need another bookshelf soon…..I really love the photos you posted of the bookshelves, because I am looking for ideas on how to incorporate more shelves into our house. I’m all for decorating with books!

    I also know what you mean by being aware that your shelves in the living room are kind of for show, because that is what the public sees, coming into your living room. I have more books upstairs, quilting and writing and astrology, and eventually we will have shelves in our bedroom when I convince my husband I need a shelf there or the pile by the bedside will fall over! lol mine are organized alphabetically, the fiction and mystery books, because I have so many and it’s the only way I can find them. I do kind of like your colour idea though, that would be aesthetically pleasing! lol please do post pictures as you do your shelves . I’m going to post ours once the shelves are done, hopefully next weekend.

    And yes – what else is a book blog for, if we can’t dream of the library we will some day own, and the books we want to see in it? Please do your Assembling the Atheneum series, and it’s not pretentious at all. It’s fun!

    • August 11, 2010 2:13 pm

      I found browsing through flickr’s bookshelf categories quite inspirational, and I can’t waht to see your photos! Also, I loved your TSS. :D

  21. August 8, 2010 7:58 pm

    I love the idea for how you will build your home library. For me, I have always owned a lot of books. Because of space constraints, I had books at my parent’s place and my house. Now that we have more room, I have more books with me. However, we have not put together a lot of bookshelves and as result a lot of my books are still in boxes. Hopefully, after my year in DC, I will put more time into making our house a home which contains a library.

    • August 11, 2010 2:14 pm

      I hope you find the time & space to put together your library too! But in the meantime, at least you have the books. :D

  22. August 8, 2010 8:27 pm

    I think about my (future) home library ALL THE TIME. Like Skip at the top of this thread, I live in a teeny tiny studio with my lover and one–only one!–small bookshelf surrounded by piles of books lining the walls, with more books stored at my parent’s house. One day, I hope to have a personal library at least three times the size of my entire present apartment.

    I always love seeing other people’s shelves that are organized by book color and have thought of imitating them, but my collection seems disproportionally white, faded, beige…it would look so drab.

    • August 11, 2010 2:15 pm

      Aww: your studio sounds quite lovely, even if it is small. :) And aren’t parents the best for free storage?! :D

      I have quite a few neutral-coloured spines…I just put them on the bottom two shelves of my bookcases, and it keeps it nice and colourful in the most visible parts.

  23. August 9, 2010 12:42 am

    I always fantasize about my home library. I would love one with a beautiful view over the countryside and a window seat to read in. I would also like a proper log fire to keep me warm in winter. All the walls will be covered in books which wouldn’t be in any organised system – just randomly stacked.

    • August 11, 2010 2:15 pm

      That sounds so cozy and lovely! Oh for a real fire. :D

  24. August 9, 2010 3:41 am

    I have to admit I do something which is a little bit random with my ‘public’ shelves I have in my lounge. I have classics on it I didn’t love just so that when people come round they can see I have read them, hahaha. Isn’t that ridiculous. Mind you I am rubbish at getting rid of books I have read regardless, but with certain titles it is to show what I have read. I don’t hide any of my guilty pleasures like I know some of my friends do haha, so I guess it balances it out?

    • August 11, 2010 2:16 pm

      lol! I think we all do that to a certain extent. :D I know I’m always more hesitant to get rid of a classic I wasn’t a fan of than a contemporary book I wasn’t a fan of. And yep: the classics and guilty pleasures definitely balance each other out. ;)

  25. August 9, 2010 6:58 am

    I love your thoughts on developing your library over time… definitely a project for a lifetime! I do dream about creating a library in a future home — but I just realised that my books are in NO ORDER whatsoever. Or, in whichever order they can fit on the shelves. Clearly a library will need a librarian. :)

    • August 11, 2010 2:17 pm

      Heehee! I can’t imagine not having ANY kind of order, but if it works for you then it works. :)

  26. August 9, 2010 7:20 am

    I have what amounts to a small home library (around 2000 volumes). I have a good number of reference books and the rest reflect what I like to read (I’m just about omnivorous, so the genres span a large swath of Dewey). My ideal would be to have built-in shelving incorporating a reading nook, but for that I would need to buy an apartment with three bedrooms instead of two, because my second bedroom also doubles as a crafts room/guest bedroom. The second bedroom is as full of books as it can be, so I am on a strict book diet right now: I only buy books I am reasonably certain will become keepers or I know I can’t get from the library. What I would like to do is to start acquiring hardcover editions of the paperbacks I have read and kept, not only because they look better on the shelves, but because they are more durable and can withstand more frequent reading.

    I organise my (900 odd) TBR books roughly by genre (mysteries, romances, non-fiction and other), and then by colour, and I have often enjoyed seeing the juxtapositions brought on by this kind of organisation. However, the rest are organised by size and then by genre, which really saves on shelf space but means not all the books that go together are together. That third bedroom will need to be big enough for me to organise completely by genre.

    • August 11, 2010 2:18 pm

      Wow! That’s a lot of books: I’m impressed! :D I tried organising by genre/topic once, but I couldn’t decide which ones were most important to me and which ones some books belonged to. I’m tempted to do a geographical organisation one day, just for fun! But right now I’m too attached to my colours. :)

  27. August 9, 2010 8:19 am

    What a lovely post. It really got me thinking about the mass amounts of books I own and how right now, they are in boxes in a closet. Our apartment isn’t big enough to house more bookshelves than what we have (I have one for books currently and am getting a second this week), so my library of over 1200 books is in boxes in a closet. It makes my bookish nerdy heart so sad.

    I buy a lot of books-used and new, with the thought that it will eventually wind up on my shelf. Since starting my current project, I have definitely made more of an effort to be really aware of what I am buying. There are probably close to 300 or 400 books in my closet I could get rid of with no guilt.

    As I explain to my husband, my books are a reflection of the person I was, and who I am becoming. I can’t get rid of my old friends, or my new ones. Once I can, I will have my own library so they can be on display and loved!

    • August 11, 2010 2:19 pm

      WOW! I didn’t realise you had so many books! That’s too bad they have to be boxed right now, but at least it’s helped you realise which ones are important to you, eh? I hope you can start displaying them soon!

  28. August 9, 2010 8:49 am

    I think it would be marvelously fun series, Eva! Do it!

  29. August 9, 2010 10:47 am

    I would definitely upgrade to wooden shelves as well! Instead of ikea ones :P

    I love your ideas on a home library. But since I’m never able to stick to a bookbuying ban and my library isn’t all that good, I don’t think I could stop buying new to me authors. But I love your idea of buying all books by authors you have loved.

    • August 11, 2010 2:20 pm

      Well, first the wooden shelves have to magically appear at my thrift store at a low low price. :p At least I don’t feel bad painting the cheap ones!

      If I didn’t have an awesome library, I wouldn’t be able to stick to a bookbuying ban either.

  30. August 9, 2010 10:59 am

    I am always thinking about my home library and how it’s arranged. I love the way books look gathered by color, but don’t think I could do that myself- I’d never remember where to find things! Mine are sorted by subject (non-fic) and author (fiction).

    • August 11, 2010 2:21 pm

      Do you have a lot of non-fic subjects, or keep to broader categories?

  31. August 9, 2010 12:46 pm

    Wonderful post, Eva! It was wonderful to read your thoughts on how your future home library will look like! I like the fact that you arrange books by colour – I know of friends who arrange books by author, genre, geography or even book-size, so arranging by colour looks unique sounds quite fascinating to me! ‘Assembling my Atheneum’ sounds like a wonderful series to me :) Looking forward to reading your posts on this topic. It was interesting to know that you were born in Athens. You were born in Athens, you know Latin, you studied Russian in Russia – Wow! You are awesome :)

  32. August 9, 2010 8:18 pm

    My library sure hasn’t been particularly purposeful before, but I still love what I’ve collected enough to box them up and move them about four different times. Those that I’m not big on sharing end up in my bedroom, because I have to have bookshelves around me. Those that can be shared, I’m not 100% sure anyone would actually want to read still! :) Who knows. I do need to think about my library though. I like how you’ve mapped this out. I need to ban buying any books for awhile and see if I can catch up on what I have, and THEN think about this topic again.

    • August 11, 2010 2:22 pm

      Pre-book buying ban, I definitely didn’t have a plan, so I think it’s good for focusing. :) There’s something to be said for a haphazard collection,though, especially if it has value to you!

  33. August 10, 2010 12:42 am

    Something you said reminded me of smething that Helen Hanff said in 84 Charing Cross Drive. She was at Oxford in England and a friend insisted that she look at this particular book shop, because she knew how much Helen liked books. There is this wonderful quote where she says something along the lines of she never understands why people think she would enjoy wandering through a book shop – she says that libraries are for browsing, and book shops are for buying a copy of that book that you have found and really loved.

    Anyhoo, I loved reading this. Like most readers, I am always thinking about my own personal library. I don’t think I ever given it quite as much thought as this but you have inspired me to do so!

    • August 11, 2010 2:23 pm

      I love that-I obviously need to read 84 Charing Cross Drive! I hope you do your own post; I’ve love to read it. :)

  34. August 10, 2010 5:35 am

    That’s a lot of thought on home libraries! In the situation I’m currently in my thoughts are simply on bookshelves. My books are in piles which makes finding the TBR ones more an adventure than a quick look. I have dreams of floor to ceiling bookcases, possibly along a wall (I’m not sure how much space I would need).

    I love the idea of a series!

    • August 11, 2010 2:24 pm

      If it helps for planning space, I’ve got about 400 books on 3 cases that are 6′ by 2′ w/ 5 shelves each. And that’s with a lot of space for knicknacks, etc. rather than crammed in!

      I didn’t realise I’d thought about it so much until I started writing this post, lol.

  35. August 10, 2010 10:26 am

    I daydream about my home library all the time. I know exactly what it’s going to look like, the room itself, when we build our home. I did say “daydream” didn’t I? But it’s not completely implausible.

    I’m different from you in terms of what constitutes my home library. For me, I wouldn’t want a library of just books I love. I like having books I didn’t like, or thought were poorly written, or just didn’t enjoy as much. It all makes up me as a reader, me as a bibliophile, me as a person. The books I didn’t like taught me just as much as the ones I did like. As a teacher and a writer and a reader, this is instrumental. Plus, just because I didn’t like a book, doesn’t mean my as-yet-unborn children wouldn’t like it1 ;)

    • August 11, 2010 2:26 pm

      That’s interesting! I can see why you’d want all kinds of books in your library, although I’m sticking to my loved ones. hehe I irrationally retain childhood books for my future unborn children, even though I don’t know if I’ll ever have any. At least I have a niece I could gift them to instead!

  36. Kathleen permalink
    August 10, 2010 1:41 pm

    I HAD a home library of thousands of books and then got rid of them all. There were various reasons why I did it at the time but I have called that decision into question a number of times since. I did donate most of them to my local library and gives me a lot of peace about what I did. Now I have a few hundred books in a very small space. I haven’t given much thought to what books I have and don’t have lately. I did arrange one shelf by color and quite like the way it looks. Your post has inspired me to think about it again and how I might approach it differently this time. I know I will definitely purchase things at my local library’s used bookstore this time around. I hope to move into a bigger space in 2011 and that will go a long way towards helping me to recreate my vision. Thanks for all of the food for thought Eva!

    • August 11, 2010 2:27 pm

      Wow Kathleen: that’s a lot of books to donate! I’m glad it brought you peace, though. :)

  37. August 15, 2010 11:28 am

    I love this post! (And all your posts lately with bookish musings!)

    I am gradually realizing that my favorite books to own are usually the ones that I bought *after* I read them. There are some books that I get from the library initially but after reading just feel that they are worth owning, even if I don’t read them again for a long time. It makes me happy to see books I really enjoyed and got a lot out of sitting there on my shelves.

    I have sometimes bought completely random books at used bookstores, that just look interesting from the cover/title/description, but I’m learning that this is usually not a good idea. Sometimes I end up liking the book, sometimes I don’t, but rarely does it end up being a book that I would ever read again or that I really enjoy having on my shelf. The problem is that once I own a book, it takes a lot for me to get rid of it again, even if it’s nothing special. Because I like owning books in general :) I really like your approach/suggestion of buying books by authors I know I like. I think I will start using that technique more when I browse used bookstores.

    I do like having books in my living room that are in some way representative of me and my interests – when I visit people I often look at their bookshelves to see what sort of things they read, so I figure people might do the same when they visit me :)

  38. August 15, 2010 8:21 pm

    I love this post! I have a gorgeous bookshelf made from solid Jarrah wood and it is STUFFED with books. I am seriously thinking about reshelving according to colour. It’s a lovely effect I’ve seen work really well and I love the jumbled shelves idea. My shelves are currently sorted according to books I’ve read (in the back) and books I haven’t (in the front). I further sort into non fiction, old books that belonged to my parents and tall books (which only fit on one shelf!). I borrow from libraries a lot and that’s how I discover new authors too. I also love the Book Depository – free shipping and great prices? What’s not to love??? Much success to you on building your home library. :)

  39. August 15, 2010 11:01 pm

    My imagined home library sounds much like yours! Very much, in fact, apart from the color-coding, as I have mine alphabetized by author. But everything else, from the real wood, used bookshelves, to the mix and match of old and new books, to the knick-knacks from travel and other things with personal meanings. This was such a joy to read, Eva, thanks for letting us in on your dreams..

  40. September 9, 2010 5:49 pm

    Organizing by color is pretty interesting. I have 1800 books in 8 cherrywood bookcases that are on one wall. I organize the books by type, then alphabetical by author name.


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