Home is where the Library Lives (College Edition)Posted: May 16, 2012
[Content note: I have put Cat Pictures at the end of this post in a shameless attempt to get people to read the whole thing. Then again, you could just scroll to the bottom. My super-evil plans would then be FOILED]
I’ve always thought of myself as someone who doesn’t buy a lot of books.
Oh, sure, I read a lot. But I don’t buy that much. Most of what I read comes from libraries. I do feel quite guilty about that (although NK Jemisin argues I shouldn’t) – I know authors need book sales, and it’s important to me to contribute to the book publishing industry.
At the same time, I read a lot of books. Like, over 150 books a year. And if I bought over 150 books a year? Yeah, I wouldn’t…eat. I’m a college student; I don’t have that kind of disposable income. And I like eating. It keeps me alive.
So yes. In the interest of eating, I don’t buy that many books.
You can thus imagine my shock when I was packing to go home for the summer, and realized that there were books on every single wall of my college-home room.
Apparently I do buy a lot of books.
I blame the major. You can’t be a literature major without buying a lot of books. Five books per class minimum, multiply that by four to five classes a semester… mucho books. And I do resell a lot of mine, because I’m callous and I need the money, but I keep ones that I think will be useful.
Just so you know? I think all the books will be useful at some point.
In retrospect, I’m not sure why I was so surprised. I’ve always accumulated books one way or another, mostly because I’m terrified that I’m going to run out of things to read. When I visited my family in France as a kid, I developed a super-secret (and effective) method of lining my suitcases with books (as I recall, I mostly took Tamora Pierce novels. You can’t travel without Keladry of Mindelan. You just can’t). I usually take three to four books with me on plane trips, even if the trip itself only lasts three hours. I never go anywhere without a book or two in my backpack. I start freaking out whenever my to-read pile dips lower than four books. And when it was time to move to college, I insisted on sending two huge boxes of books across the US border so I could fill the bookshelves of my dorm library.
Small, portable, giant, unwieldy, literate, speculative, diverse or juvenile, I’ve always had some kind of library with me. If only because my greatest terror in life is running out of reading material.
Then again, at this point in my college home (not a dorm anymore, thank the Lords of Kobol), I’m starting to worry that we could just take out the walls of my room and replace them with my books.
Let’s examine the evidence, shall we?
Exhibit A: the printer
I used to have a printer. Now access to it is completely blocked off by these two piles of books. Can you see my printer? No.
My point exactly. Trust me, it’s there.
At a glance, I’m pretty sure they’re all books from last semester. A book of Chinese history, two collections by H.D., a film textbook and Ovid’s Metamorphoses… yep, definitely the fall semester. I’ll give a quick shoutout to the one book that wasn’t from the fall semester for my Hardy-obsessed friend, JYP – Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure, hanging around the far left with price-tag still attached. This section isn’t even that bad – it used to be triple the size, but I had to bring all my research books back to the school library. Which is good, because now I can open my closet without tripping over Donna Haraway’s Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature.
Speaking of my closet…
Exhibit B: The Closet
WHY ARE THERE BOOKS IN MY CLOSET?
And why is my window-spray container leaning on top of them?
Yeah, that I have no good answer for.
Returning to the original question: WHY ARE THERE BOOKS IN MY CLOSET?
Oh, wait, I know why. There isn’t room anywhere else. Especially not for my giant textbooks.
Yes, I’ve become the kind of person who hides books in her closet. I’m not proud. I’m even less proud of the fact that there might be an entire suitcase filled with old books hidden in the back of this closet. Might. Might. I didn’t check. I had… other things to do.
Like feel shame.
The bad news is that I’ll probably have to put even books in my closet, since I’m running out of other places to put them. That’s going to be a problem because, you know, my closet actually serves a purpose: keeping my clothes off the floor. I feel like “book stashing” and “clothes stashing” are eventually going to clash. There’s only enough real estate for so much.
Now this! This is a good use of real-estate.
Exhibit C: The Wall
This is the wall space between my bed and my closet. Correction: this used to be the wall space between my bed and my closet. Now it’s a miniature library. Hurrah!
I’m actually mildly impressed with how organized my books are (famous last words). I know exactly what’s in this book-section: 18th century British novels, post-war British novels and (American) civil war textbooks. The pile on the far right is made up of my giant cookbooks (it’s not a super-practical arrangement, because I keep needing to use said cookbooks and thus disturbing the entire stack). It also contains two European women’s history textbooks and a History of the Book Reader (which is a great textbook, by the way. Highly recommended. Very interesting). When you think about it, there’s some sort of meta-ironic-commentary being made by the fact that I shelved the women’s history textbooks and the cookbooks in the same place (because obviously all that women did during the medieval era was cook! Am I right, ladies? /sarcasm/).
That was totally planned, by the way. It wasn’t just that the women’s history books and the cookbooks were vaguely the same size. *cough*
On top of the deeply ironic women’s history/cookbook section, I’ve got my small but awesome collection of 19th century British Science Fiction, from one of my favorite literature courses. It’s telling that I haven’t resold any of the books from that class, despite the fact that I had to buy them all new (and with Canadian prices, even the paperbacks cost $15-$20). Well – that’s a lie. I managed to get a great used copy of M.P. Shiel’s The Purple Cloud. It’s from the 1950s; it’s got a buxom lady on the cover and a cigarette advertisement inside. I love it.
Now – here’s what’s interesting about the last three photos. All the books I’ve shown – excluding the cookbooks – were bought for class. Which, er, says something about the classes I’m taking, huh?
Oh, but you say. That’s not that many books (for school)! Only about fifty or so. And you’ve been in school three years now…
Fair point! Then let me show you…
Exhibit D: This Semester’s Books
These are (almost) all the books I bought for this semester of college. ONE semester. My rough calculations say that I bought 28 books and checked out an additional five from the library (they were on the syllabus, but I was too cheap to buy them. Can you blame me?).
And yes, this is a pretty precarious bookshelf. In it’s defense, it’s not actually tilted – I was taking these photos with my computer’s photobooth (I don’t own a camera), and I couldn’t shoot an untilted photo without hanging upside down from teh ceiling. But I keep fearing that the poor shelf is going to collapse and send all of my school books crashing onto my desk. Which is why I never keep my computer at my desk.
Paranoia saves lives, people! (okay, it saves computer lives. Still)
A few times the books on the right have come unbalanced… and then they slide right into the trash can (I’m not even joking). It’s pretty hilarious. And sad.
Also, note the photo of Shakespeare right under the bookshelf. Hey, I’m a literature student. I have to have a photo of Shakespeare somewhere.
So yes. This is what one semester’s worth of class books looks like in my world (and yes, I did read all of them). My conclusion? Maybe I’m not a book-buying addict. Maybe my classes are trying to turn me into a book-buying addict.
And they say school is good for you.
The worst part is: what the hell am I going to do with these giant piles of books when I need this space for next semester’s books? There’s no more room in my room! GAAAH.
And I can’t sell all of them… they might come in handy at some point.
Maybe I should invest in another bookcase.
No! That’s just the crazy talking. Think of how many books I could buy with the money I would spend on a bookcase (even one of those cheap $30 IKEA bookcases). LOTS of books.
And I do, in fact, sometimes buy books that aren’t related to school. Case in point:
Exhibit E: The To-Read Pile (with an appearance by Mr. Calvin and Mr. Hobbes)
This is my to-read bookshelf (located right above my bed). Usually it’s a lot fuller, but since I was on the point of leaving my college home when I took these pictures, I returned all my library to-read books. Because stealing library books = not okay.
Anyways. The central pile? Those are the “Thank Maud I finished another semester of college without jumping off a building, now let’s go buy some science fiction and fantasy and pretend we never heard of “literature,” shall we?” books. All those books I’ve been eyeing for months, but couldn’t read because I had to finish Toni Morrison’s Jazz and Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park? Yeah, I… went a little crazy and bought most of them.
THERE WAS A SALE! It’s not my fault. Also, I’d just finished my last final, and I was in a really bizarre state. Nothing I did in those hours can be held against me.
Okay, I have no defense. I’m a horrible person. But look! Martha Wells’ The Cloud Roads! Seanan McGuire’s Discount Armageddon! More Seanan McGuire (A Local Habitation)! N.K. Jemisin’s The Killing Moon! Sooo many good booookssssssssssss…..
I admit it. I’m a horrible, no-good, bad book-buyer. I’m an addict. Something must be done.
I actually read all of the books in the central pile between the time the photo was taken and the time I wrote this blog post (about two weeks). Well, almost all of them. I still haven’t gotten around to A Clash of Kings. My friends keep assuring me it’s great; I enjoyed the first book in the ASoFAI series. Besides, I have to read it so that I can get to the rest of the series and vote appropriately for A Dance with Dragons in the Hugos. But for some reason, I really don’t want to read it. I blame the yellow cover.
This shelf also contains my knitting books and my collection of Calvin and Hobbes comics. And my Firefly DVDs. And a bouquet of dried flowers my Marat/Sade cast gave me for being a decent Assistant Stage Manager (because they are awesome). There’s clearly a link between all of these things. Who says my library isn’t organized? *cough*
There’s also another picture of Shakespeare somewhere, if you can spot it. Literature student!
(oh, and yes, I did blur one of the photos under the bookshelf. PARANOIA SAVES LIVES, people. Especially on the internet).
Ahem. Moving on.
(yes, there’s more. Told you I had a problem).
Finally! FINALLY, after showing you all of my “secondary” libraries and book-storage areas, I will get to the central culprit. The true locus of readership and literature.
My actual bookshelf.
Exhibit F: THE ACTUAL BOOKSHELF
I love my actual bookshelf. It’s wonderful. It also contains no class books whatsoever – all the books here are ones I shipped from my regular home back in Freshman year. They are my very favorite books in the universe (or at least, my very favorite books back when I was in high school). My entire collection of Tamora Pierce books. My entire collection of Tudor history books (most of which are by Allison Weir). The Abhorsen Trilogy. All my Libba Bray novels. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Karen Joy Fowler. The Sparrow. Jane Eyre, The Professor, Wuthering Heights and the Austen novels. Also, all the Young Adult novels that kept me floating throughout my horrid high school years – Born Confused, The Truth about Forever etc. And a bunch of books about US politics like The Nine and The Dark Side, because apparently, I find those fun.
I sent all of these books to my college because back when I was in high school, I didn’t read a lot of new books. I mostly re-read old favorites – and I expected I would continue this pattern when I arrived in college. So having 100 books I already liked that I could re-read was quite important to me.
I still do re-read now, occasionally. Mostly when the world is exploding all around me and I need some comfort. But I love having my old books around, even if I’m not reading them constantly like I used to.
The giant pile right by the bookshelf is yet another “book storage” area. These are my “read” books – the books I’ve finished. Every few weeks I do a purge and bring a bunch of those books back to the library, then freak out over where to put the other, non-library books. There’s no room left on my “for fun” bookshelf. No, seriously, I’m not kidding. Look.
Like I said. No room. I’m now stacking books on top of rows of other books, and I’ve still got tons of books in my “read” pile to store.
…I really have a problem, don’t I?
From this not-so-brief survey of my college room, I have concluded a few things:
1. I buy a lot more books than I think I do
2. WOW, I buy a lot of books for class
3. I am quickly running out of real-estate, and am going to need to find some kind of radical solution next year. Like selling books (NO) or buying a bookcase (maybe). Or getting rid of my bed to make room for more books (yes!)
And since you have made it to the end of the post, I shall reward you with some obligatory cat pictures.
The Cat has been sick, and as a result, she has been spending a lot of time in my room. I think it’s because I keep the temperature pretty high. The Cat is also a very, very black cat, so it’s hard to get a picture of her where she doesn’t look like a big black blob. She’s absolutely gorgeous in real life, and does not resemble a Big Black Blob. That’s the Photobooth’s fault.
The Cat was in no way amused by me frantically running around my room, taking pictures with my computer. She was particularly put out when I decided to step on the bed – the bed where she was sleeping, thank you very much – to take a photo of my to-read bookshelf.
The Cat thinks this blog is a complete waste of time, particularly since it involves disturbing her bed (the fact that it’s also my bed is lost on her). She thinks I should spend more time in worthwhile pursuits. Like petting her. Or acting as her pillow.
But for the record, The Cat also thinks I need a new bookshelf.
(those things are EXPENSIVE, The Cat. Even the cheap IKEA ones)
The Cat does not like me taking photos of her, because that takes time away from Petting. But she does think this is a satisfactory photo.
*sigh* I miss The Cat.
(I flew home – home home, as opposed to college home – last week. So I have not seen The Cat in a while).
I also miss my books. But the good news is, my home-home has libraries of its own. And I just made two trips to the city library. So I feel pretty good. I’ve got a pile of eight unread books… that should last me for a week, right? Right?
*starts to panic*