Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
Where does this book go? This is a problem that rears its head a few times every year. It’s always an issue in January, but also in September, and usually in May … or even June. Heck, we have a book problem most months. A friend ours once called us “homeschool preppers.” It’s true. When the grid collapses and the power goes out, and everyone is wondering about edible foliage and water purification, come on over — I’ve got a book on that.
My passion for buying books began in September 1995, the month The Lost World by Michael Crichton was released. Until that day, the only book I owned was an unopened Bible. The books I read in high school were from the library and rarely worth the time to read, much less buy. I’m looking at you, Steinbeck.
But I remember walking past a Waldenbooks in the Santa Monica Mall and seeing a display for the literary sequel to the dinosaur blockbuster. I loved the movie of Jurassic Park, and I figured it would be a while before the new book was adapted for the screen, and people always say the book is better than the movie so I plopped down the $22 — sticker shock for a nineteen-year-old — and began my library.
As the years went by, my collection grew and was eventually combined with my future wife’s. College texts, fun twaddle, classics, instructional books and all varieties of history and fiction filled the surfaces of our little condominium. A baby brought board books, children’s classics, books on parenting (mostly worthless), and economics; on and on it went.
Homeschooling our kids and starting our own businesses expanded the library seven-fold, and every day new topics arise as research for the books we’re writing. This month, after a dozen hours researching medical procedures online, I broke down and bought a book on war surgery in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s just easier to study from an open book than from a phone’s screen.
As the collection increases, the shelves get filled. New shelves go up, but that doesn’t solve much because the issue isn’t really how to store them, but where to display them, and this is constantly in flux. Last year’s bedside shelf is full of mostly new titles. The old ones now need a home, and they can’t go just anywhere. The Martian was a decent read and I don’t feel like parting with it, but it has no place near Gone With the Wind, or even Nicholas Nickleby. Maybe we can make a high shelf for Fiction with Mild Profanity up there, next to Ayn Rand.
I finished The Cold War: A New History this year, and sadly its paperback trim size means it must go on a high corner shelf instead of a more prominent location. Why? Because book organization matters. The Science of Interstellar is too large and floppy for my theoretical science shelf, it must go near Celestial Navigation and the atlases, which have bled into the portrait books. Michelangelo and Mary Cassatt are wondering, “What are you doing here?” And where does one shelve An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Mars? History, Biography, Science, Leadership, they all apply.
The books shift with the tide. Much like how our home needs to be reorganized with each new child, so too our bookshelves change with every blessed Amazon box delivered to our door. Perhaps we overbuy, but one simply cannot walk into a thrift store, see two hardcover volumes of Bruce Catton’s Centennial History of the Civil War (even though I already have a set) and not buy them. They’re in the original dust jackets; they’re only four bucks each.
Sometimes we purge, but more often we reshelve, because you just never know when someone may come to your door wondering what Edmund Burke really thought of the Jacobins, or how to perform an orotracheal intubation. That’s when I say, “Hang on, I’ve got a book on that.”Published in