IVP - Behind the Books - On the Keeping of Books

March 6, 2008

On the Keeping of Books

The last blog post drew quite a lot of comments, some of which opened up a secondary topic--how do we store all of those delicious books (or "friends," as Dan Reid put it) we are reading, and how many do we need to keep anyway? One of my seminary professors, David Scholer, had a lovely storage solution in his suburban Chicago home--rows of library-style stacks built right into his home office! That was a thing of beauty.

I personally favor bookshelves in every room of the house. (Well, actually, I dream of a library with floor-to-ceiling books and one of those ladders that slides on a rail around the room.) However, if you read my husband's (Dan Sullivan) comments, you will see that he does not favor being surrounded by books in every room of the house.

And that moves us into the delicate area of negotiating the storage of books with one's spouse. Greg Jao, author of the Bible study guide Kingdom of God, has a wonderful anecdote on that topic:

Scene 1: Soon after my girlfriend metamorphosized into my fiancee (an overly-long process, from her perspective), she wandered through my apartment and saw things with new eyes. "So, . . . are all those books coming with you?"

"Yes," I said. "And I'm buying more too."

This launched a conversation about whether I would give up books for her (and whether she would give up breathing oxygen for me) and what would happen (theoretically) if a book-elimination ultimatum was issued (note the passive) in the post-marriage future. A person willing to live with a profoundly unhappy spouse could issue such an ultimatum, I allowed.

Scene 2: When we moved to New Jersey, our movers demonstrated preternatural skill in estimating the number of boxes needed to pack our books--and their weight. "About 1200 lbs," he noted.*

This horrified my wife.

Me? I'm thrilled. When people come to visit and say, "Wow--you have a ton of books," I can say, "Not really. But don't worry--I'm working towards it!"

*I also have books stashed at my office and at my parents' home in sufficent quantities to move me well into the 2000 lbs range.

Posted by Cindy Bunch at March 6, 2008 8:36 AM Bookmark and Share


Cindy, I believe I share your desire of the rolling ladder....what fun to be surrounded by knowledge!

Hey, does anyone keep a database/spreadsheet of their tomes? In case of fire, or just to remember what you have since you have so many...

Comment by: Helen at March 6, 2008 9:19 AM

Because I have different views than my spouse on the proper number of books to own, and because I now have to go to the attic to admire my books, and because I have been on a journey of simplicity, well, I rarely buy a book anymore. This solves the storage issue.

But my library gets a lot of requests (from me) to purchase particular books, and they get a nice little sum of overdue fines since I can never part with the books on time.

Comment by: L.L. Barkat at March 6, 2008 10:07 AM

My idea of heaven is the scene in Disney's Beauty and the Beast where the Beast takes Belle into the library and she is amazed by the wall-to-wall floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, as far as the eye can see. (And C. S. Lewis once wrote that the books we will have in heaven are the ones that we gave away to others.)

I don't keep formal records/database of what books I own. But my packrat/collector's mind usually has a good sense of what I own and don't own or used to own but no longer own. On a few occasions I've bought a duplicate copy of a book, not because I forgot that I already had it, but to have a reading copy on the nightstand which would be more likely to be picked up than something already shelved. Thus I have two copies of Tolkien's Silmarillion, one on the shelf and one with a bookmark in the middle.

Oh, on a few occasions I've bought replacement copies of books and transferred my highlighting page by page.

Comment by: Al Hsu at March 6, 2008 10:36 AM

In the NYT's obituary for William F. Buckley there was this picture of WFB in his office:


The books (partially visible), the papers and the general sprawl of it all was peculiarly attractive to me. And to think that he died there, at his desk amidst all those books--new, aged and in gestation! Why it warms an editor's heart.

Comment by: Dan Reid at March 6, 2008 11:26 AM

I've made an excel list of all the physical books I own, all the digital books I own, and all the books I hope to own someday! It's around 4100 entries right now, and I'm trying to slim it down a bit.

My girlfriend and soon to be fiancee (hopefully!) is an avid bibliophile as well, so our future home may very well be the sort that has floor to ceiling bookshelves and rolling ladders!

Shes a big fan of the library scene in Beauty and the Beast too.

Comment by: Greg Masone at March 6, 2008 12:58 PM

What's up with fiances and bibliophily? Because MY fiance and I are both terrible specimens thereof. I know he loves me because he's willing to move my library halfway across the country...

Currently I've got two short bookcases (full) and a big, 3/4-of-a-wall one (overflowing). Regrettably, I can't actually get at the wall-sized one, because there's semipermeable barrier of bins of dishes and clothes between me and it (waiting, again, to be moved halfway across the country). I haven't yet brought myself to start packing the books. :-)

Anybody here on Facebook? I'm not actually part of, but always get a kick out of, the group called "I'd marry the Beast if I could have that library." :-)

Comment by: Pinon Coffee at March 6, 2008 5:59 PM

Books did shape the early days of our marriage.

As I prepared to move in with my now-wife (post-marriage, of course), I made sure to pack a few (okay, about 10) books--just so I'd have something to read if I got bored. Bad move #1.

Bad move #2: When my boxes of books finally arrived (all 60+ of them), I did a Julie-Andrews-spinning-on-the-mountain-top wheel around the room and said, "I feel like my friends are finally here." I think my wife looked at her wedding ring, remembered her vows, and sighed deeply.

Final aside: When we were looking for a place to have our wedding reception, someone suggested we should look at the Chicago Public Library. "No," I said. "I don't think so. Given my relationship with books, it'd be a little like someone else getting married in a brothel." My fiancee laughed. (Whew!)

I should acknowledge that my wife claims to enjoy and be proud of our book collection (although she expresses some ambivalence about its expansion).

Comment by: Greg Jao at March 6, 2008 6:51 PM

Greg Jao as Julie Andrews. Now that's a picture.

Comment by: L.L. Barkat at March 7, 2008 11:08 AM

All of this and not one mention of librarything.com?

Comment by: thom at March 7, 2008 11:33 AM

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