Yesterday’s L.A. Times had a wonderful article by book critic David Ulin about his book collecting habits. His home is packed floor to ceiling with shelves and shelves of books. Periodically, he arranges them in alphabetical order.
Ulin shares many reasons for his enormous book collection. Here’s his chief one:
They are part of my present, yes, but also part of my past, my history: three-dimensional memories.
Among their appeals is that they opened up a world view, which is what the most essential writing does. Yet equally important is their resonance as objects, carried with me, shelf to shelf, apartment to apartment, over decades, physical reminders of who I was and who I am and of my process of becoming, blurring the line between inside and out.
This led me to think about what the Klempner family book collection means about us.
- World view – Klempner adults are cheapskates. We love borrowing from libraries more than buying books. We still have a lot of books, but not relative to the amount of reading that goes on around here. Most of the books we actually own are Jewish books, especially for adults–books of prayer, Torah, character-building, and so on. The secular adult books we own are mostly practical.
- Life history – You can see what my husband learned in classes ten or fifteen years ago by checking which volumes of the Gemara we own. You can tell I studied anthropology in graduate school and that one of us reads French (speaking is another matter…). You can tell we’re both teachers, and that we’re the kind of parents that like to read a lot about how to parent. On the kids’ shelves, you can track all of my eldest child’s special interests since age 5.
What do your books say about you?