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.