Jan. 2, 2022: Home Libraries
I have always loved home libraries. I grew up in a home with lots and lots of books. I was an young teen when my parents, in an effort to corral and contain the books that were literally everywhere, put an addition on our house and one of the rooms was an actual home library. Every wall in the room had floor to ceiling bookshelves. When you walked into that room, the warmth and energy and ideas and thoughts from the books just enveloped you. There were a couple of built-in ladders for reaching high books and comfortable chairs and lamps for reading. It was also the room where my dad’s grand piano sat, so often when in there to read, one might be treated to a piano concert as well.
While I do not have an entire room to devote to my home library, I definitely have one. There are built in shelves galore in our home, thanks to my very talented and creative husband. The main living area is where most of our books are housed. They are grouped by genre. Cookbooks, entertaining books, travel books, biographies, golf books, poetry, and motivational books. The fiction section is broken down a bit further, with groupings by topic or author. Shelves in our home office house my teaching, textbook, and writing craft books. Shelves in the craft/play room contain children’s books, scrapbooks, craft and garden books, and the guest room/home gym contains fitness and health books as well as some select fiction titles.
Even my elementary school classroom has the walls wrapped in shelves that overflow with fiction, picture books, biographies, history and science nonfiction, and reference books. I do live my life surrounded by books.
According to Reid Byers, the author of the new book, The Private Library: The History of the Architecture and Furnishings of the Domestic Bookroom, home libraries are powerful places and can produce “book-wrapt”, a term he coined to describe the feeling one gets when surrounded by books.
Those who do love and appreciate books know this to be a legitimate hypothesis. Books do bring joy, comfort, inspiration, and ideas. Just being near them can produce this euphoria. Even being around books yet unread, can fill the air with potential.
An article recently on Mr. Byers and his book, written by Julie Lasky, looked closely at home libraries and tried to quantify them. How many books does it take to qualify as a home library? He mentions 1,000 as minimum, but then says that 500 will make a room feel like a home library. I was at first a little concerned and did a quick estimate. We have nearly 1,200 books. I must admit to being relieved that I do officially qualify as having a home library.
Like so many things in life, I believe home libraries need to grow organically. One does not just wake up one day and decide to “get” a home library. Yes, there are those, I suppose, who have the resources to decide to purchase enough books to fill a home library and then do so. But part of the joy and power of a home library is the connections we have to the books (or those that gave us the book). Every home library is different because it becomes a reflection of the interests and passions of the owners. That is why I love perusing the home libraries of others. Just scanning the titles and topics and arrangement can give me such insight.
As we begin this new year, I wish everyone a home library!