I've loved books since I was gifted my first one by a family friend on my tenth birthday. Books had played little role in my life until then. They were absent from our postwar Belfast bungalow, my parents not being readers. There were books at school, of course, but upon grasping that "Little Women" was my own to peruse as often as I wished, I was hooked on reading for life.
After sixty years of collecting, my home library now numbers in the thousands. I lend, give away and donate frequently, even as bookshops and thrift stores lure me in to gather more, often on the same day! A prodigious reader, I burn through many volumes in a year, in genres ranging from fiction to biography, geology to true crime, and everything in between.
Books were what got me through a troubled childhood. However chaotic my home life, however lonely I found myself to be, I had my books to turn to. They offered consolation when needed, along with the promise of a gentler future, a reminder that was sorely needed amidst each day's ongoing drama.
To me, cradling a book is akin to holding a loved one's hand. Found there is memory, trust and the shared history of years. If it is a book given to me by a friend or is one equally cherished by them, then for a moment that friend is right there with me. That is a source of great comfort to me.
I've come to realize that books are not just a part of a home...books are a home to me. They have unfailingly provided me with respite, contentment and stimulation in varying amounts. I don't consider any book to have let me down, however mediocre the story or meagre the content. With every page read, I learn more about the world, and about myself. What more could I want?
I am contemplating a move, and am trying to winnow down my possessions. I care little for such things as dishes, clothes, and furniture, but deciding which of my old friends to keep is a bigger challenge.
I know I will never part with any book written by the Bronte Sisters, who have inspired me to write since I read the first sentence in "Jane Eyre". I have not a fraction of their talent, courage or the tenacity needed to achieve what they did, but their shared spirit continues to awe and inspire me.
And how can I let Jeffrey Archer go, he of immense story -telling skills and fascinating life? My major collection of archaeology, history and forensic books are must-have references and I cannot contemplate giving away my theatre scripts or my volumes of Shakespeare. Harry Potter stays, as does Jane Austen. The stack of Irish writers I've amassed also remains as does a shelf of beautifully bound and weathered English Literature classics that have been read and reread throughout the years. As for my numerous art book so carefully sought out over decades..could I seriously let them go?
You see the challenge I face. Books have provided one of the true constants in my life. I do own and eReader, have books on CD and book apps on my iPad and iPhone, but the hard-covers stacked beside my bed offer a comfort nothing electronic could ever give me.
Books influence everything I do. Going into a strange house, the first thing I look for are the bookshelves...and the dogs. If I find neither books, nor dogs, I begin to wonder why I'm there. And I both love, and hate, knowing that no matter how many books I read, I will never get to them all.
Must run... literary places to visit, characters to meet, old friends to check in with, and many unread books to devour before I part with them.
I'll be in my library, should anyone need me.
Just ignore the Do Not Disturb sign...lol!