Where books live
Apparently, some people live in houses without books. I know. Weird.
I am not one those people.
We are not one of those families.
My wife likes to sleep on a bed of paperbacks surrounded by the day’s teacups. My son, now fifteen, has never thrown a book away and considers Christopher Paolini’s Eragon series to be of the appropriate length for light reading (3 books of 800 pages each). My daughter, as befits a nine year old, has lots of books of varying shapes and sizes. These can be found under the duvet when getting into bed, on the sofa, in the cat’s food bowl, in the garden, under the brake pedal in the car. You get the point.
We have quite a few books.
And the books have to live somewhere.
So we have quite a few bookshelves.
I decided to document the life of books in my house. Let me tell you, they live well.
As you enter the house the first books you meet are in the hallway.
When a newcomer arrives I expect them to stop by these shelves, to examine our taste, to find shared interests. On the odd occasion that the type of person who simply doesn’t notice these books is allowed into the house, excuses are made by their hosts and their visit is brief. These people are not our people.
I worry about what is on these shelves, what message we are giving to the world. I mean, I have read Dan Brown and Jeffery Archer, but I don’t want them displayed here. First impressions and all that.
Through to the kitchen. Books in the kitchen you say? But of course. This is modern, open-plan living. And my daughter’s clutter must have some place it can be hurriedly tidied to. So there are piles of hastily stacked books to one day be tidied to a proper bookshelf.
And then there’s the cookbook section. Just the basics here: A dollop of Delia, a spoonful of Nigella, a pinch of Jamie, alongside oddments discovered in magazines and newspapers.
In the lounge the blessed elephant (pictured below) safeguards the important manuals for the family: First Aid, the Official Scrabble Dictionary, and Ukulele for Dummies. Classic texts which will be on the school curriculum soon.
I shall leave the front room until last. All will become clear.
So upstairs we go. On the landing is a little gathering of books inspired by a reading list at my son’s school. We dip into this lot occasionally.
On reaching the bedrooms the four different personalities of the family are clearly on display. My bedside books are a collection of favourites and things to read urgently. Some have been there a while, constantly getting shunted down the queue. The wife’s bedside books are similar – favourites and to-reads – but not quite so neatly arranged.
Then there are the kid’s rooms. What have we created? If it weren’t for books they could live calm, minimalist lifestyles.
My daughter has two bookshelves, because when you’re nine books come in all shapes and sizes. The one on the left is the organised one. The picture on the right illustrates my son’s need for more book-space.
So I have deliberately left the front room until last. Come with me now back down the stairs.
Things get serious in the front room. This is the room where I became a man.
Whatever image or scenario has flashed through your mind, I pity you.
This is where I successfully completed a major DIY project. Oh yes. Me. DIY.
The only reason I completed it is because it involves books. And when it comes to books I seem able to defeat my lethargy with all things ‘alpha male will fix it’.
I want you to look again. I BUILT THOSE!!!!!!!!
The eagle-eyed amongst you will have spotted that child one is in his GCSE year and therefore has a dedicated desk to the right. And child two is a bit of a dancer and has taken up valuable book space with large, shiny trophies.
I cannot imagine a house without books. My family’s history is in those books. We can remember when and where we got each one, when we read them, how we were feeling, whether we read them alone or shared them. And, if we leave them there long enough, we may have forgotten enough about them to one day take them down and enjoy them all over again.