Guest Post by Melanie Fogel
Not everyone who reads books keeps them. Those of us who do line our walls with books do so because we love books. We like looking at them; we like holding them. Some of us even enjoy dusting them.
I’ll assume somewhere in the world there are people who like to “show off how smart they are by what’s on their bookshelf,” but that’s not me, nor the people I know. And on behalf of all book lovers, I take exception to your dismissing us like that.
Book lovers are a subclass of readers. I suppose there are book lovers who don’t read, but I’ve yet to meet one. They may not love books for the same reasons I and the people I know do.
There’s something wonderful about sitting in a room surrounded by books. It’s like sitting in a room surrounded by friends and family: no matter where you cast your eye, you see someone with whom you have an emotional bond. And unlike family, you can chuck the ones who made you angry or sad. So there’s only good memories in a room full of books.
Books aren’t just containers for ideas, they’re artifacts to appreciate in their own right: their colours, their textures, their smells. As packages, they beat heart-shaped chocolate boxes hands down. More than that, reading—at least in the age of paper books—is a tactile experience, and just touching a book can recall memories. Opening one is even better.
Unlike electronic books, paper books can hold more than ideas. Signatures, for example. Or bookplates, which are somehow more intriguing when you’ve acquired the book second hand, and you wonder why anyone who took the trouble to paste in a bookplate would later give the book up. Then there’s the miscellany of what else you use for a bookmark: postcards, photographs, shopping receipts, dollar bills. Or bookmarks themselves—be they embossed leather gifts from friends, souvenirs of a book launch, a giveaway from a bookstore no longer in business. All memories at least as rich as photographs, that spring at you unexpectedly when you open a book.
A room lined with books is a room filled with potential that you can “see.”
I have no doubt that today there are children who will become adult readers who’ve never read a paper book. They won’t know what they’re missing, which is probably a good thing for them. But I have to wonder what they’ll fill their rooms with, and if it’ll be anything near as satisfying as a room full of books.