Friday, August 23, 2013

In Praise of Bookshelves

One year I combined my annual weekend in New York with ThrillerFest, a conference for writers of (you guessed correctly) thrillers.  A few presenting authors signed books at a store called The Mysterious Bookshop.  I fell in love with it, and now whenever I go to New York, I visit.

I love paper books.  I say this as an author who has published e-books and loves her Kindle.  My perfect vacation involves a chaise lounge, a view of the ocean, and at least ten books.  The Kindle lets me bring all those books in one small device. 

But my bookshelves remind me where I've been and what I've learned.  One shelf houses investment books, another is full of advice on fiction writing.  Hardback mysteries -- most of them by Sara Paretsky and John Sandford -- fill another.  Other shelves hold books on women and religion, law, happiness, poetry, horror.  When I visit people's homes, the books on their shelves spark conversation and sometimes camaraderie.  Eyes may be windows to the soul, but so are bookshelves.

My books make me feel solid and safe in a way I can't explain.  Three years ago I moved into a new two-bedroom condo.  I love it, yet even after I'd rearranged the furniture, hung artwork, and framed family photos it felt like a hotel.  A nice, relaxing hotel, but still a hotel.  Then I stacked the books I'm planning to read next on a living room table and moved two bookshelves out of my study and into my hall.  I already had books in a basket in the bedroom, so now books live in every room.  And, at last, I feel at home.

Which is how I feel in The Mysterious Bookshop.  Its bookshelves stand so tall you need a ladder to reach the top.  A leather couch and armchairs form a seating area where I usually spend half an hour reading.  Based on employee recommendations, I've found books that fall more into the literary genre than mystery or thriller, but I've loved them.  (Recent finds include You Are One Of Them by Elliott Holt and The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai.)  I always buy at least a couple hardcover books there along with my stack of paperbacks because I know I'll keep those on my shelves at home.

So here's to as many forms of books as possible and, even more, to bookshelves.

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