by Katie Downey
One’s bookshelf is a somewhat sacred possession. Magic can be found in the experience, from its design to its contents. I have had many bookshelves, some long gone in memories past and some still hanging onto reality. I traveled and moved so frequently, even as a child, that sometimes bookshelves had to be abandoned, but the books always came with me.
One thing that has always been important to me, no matter where I go, is my beloved books that jumped from shelf to shelf. After a while, it becomes tedious to unpack and repack, so I only get out the books I cannot live without since I have very little control over myself. At the same time, in second-hand bookstores, the quantity grows yearly.
What Bookshelves Mean to You
Everyone’s bookshelf will mean something slightly different to them; some will have books covered with dust, and some will be center stage in the home. Some will have the latest best sellers, whereas others will have ancient first editions and books no longer in print.
Personally, I very rarely care about best sellers or the latest released books unless they are written by an author friend or someone I admire. However, I have a handful of very important-to-me first editions and a mountain of books I have loved my whole life. Those are the books that travel with me no matter where my next destination might be. Sometimes the bookshelf must be left behind, but never the books, at least not the important ones.
It can be similar to soul searching to discover why a book means so much to you. Some books might remind us of a happy time in our lives. Others might remind us of a struggle we overcame. Some books will take you back to your childhood, and others will enlighten you in your current life.
A Brief History Lesson on Bookshelves
Once considered a literal case used to protect one’s books, bookcases started with the most simple, straightforward designs, just as we see today; two vertical pillars supporting numerous shelves between them. These shelves could be adjusted to accommodate books of every size.
Medieval scribes kept the book or codex they were writing on such shelves. These early bookshelves were some of the largest pieces of furniture ever made and boasted some of the most enormous cabinets of architectural proportions used from the 17th century. These old-fashioned libraries are thought to be similar in comparison, and likely the direct ancestors of the modern entertainment center.
Another distinction resulted from the fact that books were commonly shelved with their spines to the back of the case in order to display the ornate clasps that secured the covers.
When looking at my collection of books, you might think you are looking at a collection derived from several different people. I like a wide array of subjects and enjoy a diverse collection of books. I also have a young child now. So most of my bookshelves have been turned over to his book collection. He has a vast book collection like his Grandma, and I do.
We like escaping reality in a healthy form, learning about the wonders of the world, and being enlightened by what others have to say. Reading can be calming and help lull you to sleep, or it can ignite a fire from within to push you toward your life’s purpose. It all depends on what you pick up to read and when it happens.
My bookshelf is a space that is shared with my child’s books, much like my life these days. I once had a bookshelf I made, sanded, and painted with flowers and vines while I lived in the mountains. When I left, it stayed behind because that’s where it belonged best. I did, however, take my beloved books with me. I have so many sentimental books that are more than books. They are like a bookmark in that place in my life and will forever remind me of the time we first met.
I have a wide variety of randomly collected and highly unique books that are as eccentric as I am. I think you can really tell a lot by looking at someone’s bookshelf. I’m not talking about those stuffy “on-display” business books or anything that is clearly displayed for effect. If anything, it annoys me because it is a character lie and makes the exhibitor look like a fraud. Showy books aren’t for me, just like small talk isn’t for me. I like it when a person keeps their bookshelf private because what we want to know or experience does not need to be on display for everyone else.
I am going to take you on a short trip through some of my favorite books on my bookshelf. I hope you enjoy!
By: Daniel P. Mannix
My most sacred book and probably the only book I own that’s worth money. I searched and searched for this book online and in every second-hand bookstore, I could find. I could not find a decent copy under $500. Then a friend of mine happened to go to a book fair at a local library in Baton Rouge, LA, and found the holy grail; a first edition Fox and the Hound. I will be forever in her dept.
Why does this book mean so much to me, you may ask. I cannot fully explain it, but this book is so symbolic of very close friendships. I have watched friends float away during my lifetime because we were different animals and sometimes, deep down, enemies. It is real, no fluff, and it will take your breath away. I’m not going to sugarcoat it at all; this book is immensely depressing and heart-wrenching. The staggering emotion that the author, Daniel P. Mannix, writes with is so genuine, unlike the Disney version that focuses on a friendship
The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living
By: The Fourteenth Dalai Lama & Howard Cutler MD
I found this book at a time when I was lost and heartbroken over the cruel actions of humans and the horrible daily global news. I was feeling rather empty and needed to refocus. This book enlightened me and helped me get past obstacles in such a way that I named it one of my life’s most important books. To this day, it is marked and highlighted to sort of the very best principles it taught me.
By: Sheryl Strayed
Another book that really came to me at the right moment in my life. I was once quite lost and had started camping alone regularly in the Blue Ridge Mountains. My Dad had just passed away, and I was filled with anger and grief. I needed to be alone to figure out who I was again. This book is a brave tale of a woman who paused her severely messed up life following her mother’s death and found focus and a reason to live while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State alone.
By: Richard Adams
I have loved this book for decades. It was published in 1972 and has been on my shelf for over 20 years. This book symbolizes war and the differences in cultures. It symbolizes segregation, slavery, love, and freedom. This is by far one of the greatest books ever written for so many reasons. My copy even has contact paper on the cover because I have read it so many times that I was afraid it would begin to fall apart.
No matter what’s on your bookshelf, I hope it inspires you to your core. A bookshelf is a cage for books or a home. However, you want to look at it. The books on that shelf are the ones telling a story and reminding you of who you are.