A Bibiliophile`s Paradise

On the Shelf

On My Shelf

I love the sight of a shelf full of books. It`s an open invitation to relax and be whisked away into another world or even, another era. And can`t you tell so much about a person by looking at their choice of books? 

I was in a house some time ago that was full of books. It was a bibliophile`s paradise. There was floor to ceiling shelving running along at least one wall in every room, with one room having three walls of shelves.

Peppered about the place were various types of comfortable seating arrangements. The emphasis was on comfort rather than style. Each cosy window seat, or overstuffed armchair, extending that invitation out again

“C`mon, sit a while. Relax. Get lost in a book.”

There were stacks of books on the kitchen table and books in the bathroom-well, that`s a natural place to have books, I suppose. There were stacks in the hallway and on the stairs. I didn`t venture upstairs, but the old man assured me that he had had every room shelved there too, and each was full of books.

There was nothing trendy at all about the house. It was devoid of any other ornamentation. This added to it`s appeal. There was no sense of time or place about the bibliophile`s residence, adding all the more to that sense of escape.

The bibliophile himself was in his seventies. And so, the books were long standing friends running back years, perhaps even into his childhood. All the more wonderful then, because, judging from the vintage nature of some of those books, the vast majority were out of print, and some would more likely be prized by rare book collectors.

All of them were prized by him of course. He plainly couldn`t be parted from them. Books are friends to the true bibliophile, and even though he would never read them all again, he would glean a certain pleasure in seeing an old book, just as one is thrilled to meet a long lost friend.

And what did the books tell of him? From the selection of bookspines I read, he was a man devoted to the study of Irish history, current affairs, politics and music.

One of the thrills of growing up in Bogland was that there wasn`t a whole pile for a kid to do. The chief amusements consisted of exploring woodland or bog. And, in inclement weather, crawl into a very comfortable armchair with any sort of book. There was a lot of inclement weather. And, fortunately, a wide variety of books.

I long to have those days back again. I long to have that endless sense of time, that eternal day where I can get so lost in a book, I`ll emerge hours later and wonder if I`ve had my lunch or is it evening time already.

Of course, with adulthood comes time management and responsibilities, joint enemies of my inner bibliophile.

But I am thrilled at least to see the Teens escaping into books in the same way as I once did. Visits to the bookshop were mandatory when they were little ones, followed on by a trip to café to make the association with reading all the more pleasant. Each has bookshelves in their rooms, and, although digital natives who love their technology, they still prefer traditional books. And they are keen readers/

Caught in the midst of college exams last week, Elder Teen confessed that he dropped his studies to read Dan Brown`s “Inferno”. It was his way of destressing and yes, the exams went fine anyway. He just needed the escape.

And Christmas is around the corner. This week, in our long standing family tradition, we will do battle with the crowds and escape into the glories of our local bookshop. We`ll each do our own thing for an hour or more, thumbing through our favourite genres, savouring the smell of fresh print on pristine page.

We won`t emerge either, until we`ve a very decent pile of books between us. Something to confine us to armchair, or sofa, or bed as we race through torrid adventures, perhaps in other eras and in other lands.

And when the plot unravels and the story ends, the books will be closed but the memories will live on. Before too long, they will have become old friends,  reminders to us of a Christmas past, and of family life, and long winter days by the fire. And they will join the other books, lining the shelves and surely more shelves, lining the wall.

Maybe, one day, this home will be a bibliophile`s paradise.


Barry kept me from running yesterday. Which is ironic, since he`s a runner himself.

In fact he`s a former runner who has rediscovered the joys of running, as so many of us have  in mid-life.

I caught up with Barry first, last Wednesday and he brought me back to my earlier days in running, those tentative first steps when I wavered between quitting and believing I could do it. Unlike me though, the younger Barry was a star athlete in his running club, and it hasn`t taken too long for that talent to come to the fore again.

I found myself with him again while standing at the check out in Lidl. Honestly, I was glad of his company in that darned long queue and thrilled to make the acquaintance with his two daughters.  In those few minutes, I caught up on another little piece of my friend`s life and, while the running is going well, it seems so many other things are not.

Oh, it`s the usual mix from mid-life-marital woes, job instability and dealing with the shock of everything that seemed stable and familiar, suddenly being ripped from your life. But the girls certainly seem fine. They`re oblivious to all that troubles their parents, they`re full of hopes and dreams, and Barry is aiming to keep it that way.

Naturally, there wasn`t a whole lot Barry could divulge in the shopping queue. And anyway, this is Smalltown, Ireland so I was kinda conscious of what my fellow shoppers were thinking as I stood there maybe a looking a little too intently at Barry. I have the sort of face you can read like a book and anyone could have noticed that I am getting rather too fond of him.

Oh, he has a wife. Lara. She is lovely, and I wouldn`t dream of interfering with anything like that. I am not that sort of woman. Barry is more a friend, than anything else. He just makes me laugh, that`s all. Don`t we all need that kind of lightheartedness in our lives?

Of course I should have gone for a run last night. I know Barry would have no matter what was happening in his life. But yesterday was a day of one thing and another and before I could help myself I was lying in bed with Barry.

Honestly, I don`t know how he`s going to figure his way of this muddle. And somehow, I am getting sucked into the whole thing myself. And of course, twit that I am, I didn`t even notice until Teen Son barged into the bedroom.

“Gosh, Mum, you`re glued to that Kindle App these. What`s the book?”


Barry” by Roy McCarthy. Kindle edition is available here (US) and here (UK).

Or read more about it on Roy McCarthy`s blog here.