Tuesday, November 18, 2008

When you visit someone's house...

... for the first time, what do you notice? What catches your attention? What draws you in?

For me, it's their bookcases, and the books they hold. Invite me to your home, and before you know it, I'll be quietly examining your books. Why? Well, several reasons...

First, I just find it interesting to know what people read. Is it what I would expect them to read, from what I know of them? Or is it a complete surprise? If it's a shared collection, can I guess which person brought which book to the shelf? Is he the one responsible for the copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance or is she? Hmmm... a copy of Wuthering Heights... I suspect that's hers... but what a fine surprise to be wrong.

And what does someone's book collection say about them? Heavy on fiction? Classics? Non-fiction? Are there a number of weighty tomes on some specific aspect of science? Why does this theatre person have so many physics books? (what, a personal example from my own bookcase?) For that matter... how are the books arranged... one person might sort them by subject matter, another dividing fiction from non-fiction, poetry from prose, alphabetically by author. What about the shelves of books perfectly arranged by size? What does that say?

I also enjoy perusing a friend's shelves simply to see if I discover something new. "Hmm... there's an intriguing title...!" Or perhaps I'll see a book I've always meant to read... or read a review of recently... or.. or... or... Depending on how well I know the person, I may ask to borrow it (knowing that for some, books are precious and not to be loaned lightly, while others freely give them away)... or perhaps just make a mental note to seek it out at the library.

And sometimes I simply find something I read long ago... perhaps a favorite book from my childhood... and the memories that brings will usher a smile to my lips. I suppose it makes others wonder..."What is he looking for? And why is he smiling like that?" But I really don't mind, I'm too busy browsing the collection.

So if you ever come to visit me, feel free to browse... I won't mind. What will you find? That's for you to discover.

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