I have always revered books as objects. Not only did I “publish” several great works before the tender age of ten (i.e. I had a few excellent, hard-working teachers who harnessed the power of lamination and did a masterful job of stapling), but I also spent countless hours arranging and re-arranging the books on my bookshelf. As in: Which ones will I face out today? Which ones will be displayed with their corresponding doll? Note that countless hours were spent DISPLAYING books, not actually reading them; hence my mother’s idea to entice me with books that came with dolls.
My love of reading wouldn’t actually kick in until high school. At this point (thanks to some more excellent teachers), I went hog-wild for this solitary, somewhat dorky hobby. Around this time, I was also thrilled to get eyeglasses: I was positively bookish, and proud of it. Since then, I’ve worked in bookstores, gotten happily lost in libraries and, when at other peoples’ houses, I’ve scoped their bookshelves with great interest. Just in case my love of books and reading isn’t coming through loud and clear to everyone in my life (and to those I’ve never met), I like to advertise this past-time on my car. Here is my one and only bumper sticker, which I have had for 10 years (courtesy of Browseabout Books, one of my favorite independent bookstores, in Rehoboth Beach, DE – in fact, this is one of the bookstores where I have had the honor to work):
This is all the long way of saying that when this crazy e-reader phenomenon hit, I nay-sayed, I scoffed, I soapboxed, I called myself a traditionalist.
Then I got one.
Here is why I came over to the dark side: I knew I’d be coming out with a book this year (for more on this see the last several posts) and I wanted to see what all the hub-bub was about. The result? I discovered I liked the device VERY much. So sleek! So convenient! So nice to read in the dark-of-night whilst my better half slumbers! True traditionalist or not, I have bulldozed through more books since I got this thing in January than I ever have before.
E-readers do promote reading. They just don’t promote books – the kind with paper pages and titles etched artfully on their spines. Naturally, this makes me worry about The Bookshelf (not to mention The Bookstore and the The Library). And most relevant to this post, I wonder: what will become of home libraries? What about that singular thrill of
snooping strolling through other people’s reading lives? What will happen to books as design elements? Even though my taste skews toward minimalism in most ways, the houses I love most are those filled with books.
Our library a.k.a. “book nook” is one of my favorite parts of our house:
This single-shelf, wraparound configuration was inspired by a photography show we saw in New York City a few years ago: it featured 1,000 polaroids taken by Philip-Lorca diCorcia at the David Zwirner Gallery. The work was excellent, and we also appreciated how the photos were presented i.e. in one horizontal line around the whole space:
Rob got the shelves (nothing fancy) from Home Depot, had them cut to size, then installed them exactly at my eye level for ease of use. Custom height! No more bending down to find books, no more balancing on tip-toe. This system could only be more user-friendly if I’d taken the time to alphabetize.
But the BEST part about this “library” – and I hate to brag here – is that we have our very own full-time librarian:
He doesn’t actually shelve books, or do anything to organize them – he doesn’t know the dewey decimal system, nor does he shoosh visitors. He merely sits in his mini Saarinen Tulip chair and encourages quiet in his own way – by example. (We got this miniature chair and the gnome at the gift shop of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.)
In sum, I think this device has an excellent design:
And it even has what is called, “a library”:
But it doesn’t exactly contribute to any interior design. And for the impact it will have on my old friend, The Bookshelf, in the years to come…I can’t help but grieve.
How about you? E-reader? Old-school books?
Please note that The Homeowner’s Guide to Greatness can be purchased in both formats, wink.
Also note that I’ve been collecting photos of great bookshelves and home libraries on my Pinterest board called, “Bookish” for a while now, if you’d like to take a look. There are some very cool ideas here: