I love books; I always have. When I was a kid, and there was a special chore to be done, my father used to bribe me with the promise of a trip to the used bookstore. It was a motivator that always worked for me. I love to read, of course, but the ownership of books is not just about reading; having a book in my possession gives me the potential to visit another world, take up another craft, learn another language, or be another person whenever I want to. I don't actually have to read the book; it's the ability to do so, if I get around to it, that counts. But the day I realized that I could be locked in my house for a hundred years and never run out of brand new books to read was a day that changed my life. Well, okay, it didn't really change my life; I didn't stop buying books and I didn't even slow down much until Afterwords on Main Street closed. But now at least I'm making an effort to actually read some of these neglected books that sit so sadly and dustily on my (extremely crowded) shelves.
When the large bookshelves in our dining room (consequently called the dinebrary) were built, I populated them with some semblance of order—fiction on this side, children's books here, nonfiction on the other side by topic (classics, languages, art, and so on). Over the years, books have been shoved in wherever they fit, some stacked "decoratively" at an angle, some lying on top of the others. More shelves were added on the second floor, and then on the third floor. (And now there's that whole new basement to colonize! No, no, I can't let myself think that way.)
I picked a short little shelf on the third floor. It's directly across from the bed, so when I lie on my left side, the books there stare at me and dare me to ignore them. My project for the summer—and clearly for the fall as well, at this rate—is to read, or decide not to read, every book on the shelf.
It's a random assortment. I started with The Quincunx, by Charles Palliser, a hefty modern but Victorianesque novel likened to Dickens. I love Dickens; I bought this book years ago and have moved it to three different states without reading it. Ha! It had all the tedium of Dickens with none of the wit or humor. After a hundred pages, into the AAUW Booksale donation bag it went. Dumping it was just as satisfying as reading it.
On to some lighter reading. You know how grey is the new black? For me, science fiction is the new mystery: interesting themes and low expectations. I zipped through the fairly-engaging Wolf of Winter and the not-entirely-lame Daughter of the Forest, and moved on to The Book Borrower, a novel (which I bought from a sale table outside Shaman Drum because I liked the cover photo) about two annoying women and their lifelong friendship which was at least good enough to finish, if not to keep. After that I read the real thing: Laurie Colwin's Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object—like all her work, a book of jewel-like precision and grace.
Then, the complete poems of Cavafy, in a recent translation by Theoharis Theoharis. I didn't really need to read this, having loved this poetry since I was an undergraduate in Greece, but Cavafy's interpretation of classical themes, melancholy yet perversely hopeful, always speaks to me. Please do read his work if you haven't already. All the translations into English have their good points. This book, of course, went back on the shelf.
Also back on the shelf, after a leisurely reread, went Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf. Not just an excellent rendering, but a beautifully designed book, and with the two Englishes (I like saying that) on facing pages for easy reference. Maybe there's something to that Nobel Prize thing.
I'm currently taking a break from reading straight through anything, while I browse in both A Pattern Language, Christopher Alexander's treatise on the right way to build community by building for the beauty of good function, (the organization based on his work, interestingly, has one of the most unusable and poorly designed websites online today) and the vanity press Witch's Guide to Broomsticks. Don't ask me how I came by that; I don't know. I couldn't even find it on the web anywhere.
I'm about halfway through the little shelf. I feel like I'm making excellent progress, and that I'm really accomplishing something.
Some of us need these little victories, I suppose.