“If you go home with somebody, and they don't have books, don't fuck 'em!”
― John Waters
Can you imagine if someone came up with the idea an idea for a public library in this day and age? The concept of a book brain trust, open to all, with materials that can be brought home for weeks at a time? Doesn't it sound positively communist?
My whole family is library crazy. To this day some of my best kid memories are my dad dragging us kids to every library in a 20 mile radius of our suburban home. Libraries weren't a quick in and out, grab a book affair, they could be a whole morning, a whole afternoon. You could, and were expected to, lose hours browsing around. I had a library card from the time I was about 5 years old.
As the years went by, my relationship to the library changed....it waxed in high school when I would hold court in the school library with fellow nerd pals, when I realized they had fashion magazines, then VHS movies (often effed beyond use), and it waned when I started earning money and took great pleasure in curating my own weirdo library at home (in my fledgling attempts to organize the current collection I realized I now have need for sections of books on subjects like celebrity biography, groupie memoir, fat/body positivity books! a whole section of books by John Waters!); it waxed again in the 90s when I suddenly remembered the library. Despite the fact I was doing a master's degree in nursing, I had forgotten that the library was once a trusted friend, a refuge even. Getting a new NYPL card from the huge branch on 5th avenue was incredibly exciting to me. It STILL excites me to go to the library! I still feel so lucky that I get to take out whatever i want! The fact that you can reserve holds, they'll CALL you when the book comes in, still seems incredibly luxurious to me. Someone will notify me when a cool book comes in, I can borrow it for free??
I love that the library is the real melting pot in the urban landscape. You have moms with little kids, people surfing the internet, old people puttering around, homeless bros whiling the day away--all in almost perfect quiet. It's heaven.
Recently a neighbour saw me with a stack of books, library bound. She commented in horror about the hygiene of shared books (always with the "who knows where it's been?"---who cares??!?) OF course I was compelled to reply that I like to read the gossip magazines int he bathtub. Disgusting!! My sister has a friend who won't allow her kids to go to the library because of fear of germs. Children's Aid might not agree, but to me that borders on abuse--to deprive your kids the fun of the library is crazy to me. Love of reading should be the goal if you want your kids to achieve in school, hell, in life. Books are incredibly important to me. When I go into someone's house and see they only have a few, or the ones they have are arranged by colour or something--I make some unpleasant character judgements.
There was a cool series in the New Yorker about people's home book collections:
So what do our shelves say about us. That we are messy, curious, prefer nonfiction, are aspirational. But mostly messy.
This shelf is supposed to be the culled collection; it's a mess. Needs another culling badly. I think part of the reason it's stayed as is is due to the fact that last time we got rid of books we delusionally decided to sell them to a local place. The thing is no matter how awesome your collection is (did I mention I love all my books?), it's not worth your time, effort, gas etc to try to get them sold. They're essentially worthless.
Out of respect for the written word I need to get these organized.
These are all my books TO BE READ. There is everything from Charlaine Harris (I hate myself for reading these shitty, shitty books but am somehow compelled....), and a couple from the Twilight series that I intend to look at. I saw them at the Goodwill and figured I'd see how loathsome they are. Now that I put it that way maybe I'll redonate them. I did get through the first Hunger Games book and it was so goddamn boring I couldn't believe it.
So those are the shame books.
I absolutely love to see people's book collections. When there is none, I get nervous.