Book Freak

Caveat: If you read this blog for life at vet clinics, information about tapeworms, equine reproduction, working cattle, odes to dogs, good recipes, and the like, then this is not the post for you. Please come back some other day and I’m certain that I’ll have something weirdly animal or veterinary or kitcheny for you, I promise.

When Joel and I bought our house in 2008, we pulled some walls, raised the ceiling, and put down hardwood floors. (If you have dogs and especially if you have German Shepherds, you’ll soon learn that shag carpeting is not your flooring of choice). The other major change was bookshelves. When in Illinois, we–and by we I mean me–had a study, and we’d already gone through the exercise of adding copious amounts of shelving there to solve the literary problem, so I knew that we’d need to go the bookshelf route again. When remodeling our Texas abode, I had the guys build five floor-to-ceiling modules, each with seven shelves, thereby lining the long wall of our living room. They gave me a bit of eyebrow, but built them nonetheless. When they installed them, they decided that was the time to say something, namely “There is NO WAY that you have that many books.” I snorted, knowing just how boxes of books the movers had given me stink eye for making them lift (the box count was 52, for the record).

When they returned the next day, they found the shelves already full. I’m not certain if the beer that they bought for me was apologetic or congratulatory, but I knew better than to ask which.

When I’m full-on happy, I categorize the shelves. While I don’t go hard-core Dewey Decimal System, I do have things arranged into fiction, non-fiction, poetry, drama, children’s literature, biographies, autobiographies, history (and several gradations there), philosophy, and religion. And reference. And cookbooks. And Joel’s automobile and driving books. And guidebooks. And random. And stuff that I’d borrowed from others that I didn’t want entering the stacks for fear it would never make its way out again. So when the shit year that was 2013 came about, it was shocking to many but in one way in particular: I stopped reading. For almost six months, I read nothing. For someone that regularly read 2-3 books per week, this sudden literary cliff dive was worrying to many.

When deciding what I wanted out of 2014 and forward, I included a return to my reading ways, and so far, so good. I’ve read two books already this year, and I’m halfway through Donna Tartt’s newish novel, The Goldfinch (quite good, if you’re looking for a book suggestion). Considering that this evening’s activity was BookPeople, the local independent bookstore here in Austin, although Joel heard rumors of another indie bookstore that had opened, that aspect of life seems to be returning to normal. Four novels and one UK magazine later, we made it home. I think my next book will be Claire Vaye Watkins’s collection of stories entitled Battleborn. I’m somewhat hopeful that this might be a new addition to the books I consider essential reading in the canon of Western literature (Proulx, Doig, Stegner, McCarthy, Ehrlich, Spragg). I cannot tell you what a relief it has been to find myself curled up in my chair, wrestling for elbow space with Eleanor, losing myself in a book once again. Something in my soul clicked back into place.

In a different life, I’m a librarian, the kind with glasses and a bun and a vicious “Shhh!” Combine that with the glare I know just how to drive home, I’m formidable in a library. When we travel, we go to bookstores and libraries and flea markets. We used to have to allot space for books and book purchases made while on the road (yay for iPads and electronic readers that have made this less of a problem). But in this life, I’m a collector. I gather other people’s words, their stories, their ideas, their thoughts, and I make them part of my life. In this way, I make myself whole.

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