I went looking for a book today and ended up finding it in our upstairs bookcase. The photo above is but one shelf of the two shelf bookcase - which came from the house I grew up in in St. Paul, Minnesota. Now before you judge us on having such a small book collection, let me explain.
If you know my wife and I, we are voracious readers - she more than me, but I do alright. We have a stack of books by our nightstand constantly. (Ironically enough, as I write this at 8:30 on a Saturday night, she is up in bed...reading. What else to do on a February night?) Right now, I have three books up there, From the Top, by Michael Perry, The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Marten Troost and the Hawks of Sorga, by Summer Hanford. These three books are resting on top of a Sun Magazine, a Verse Wisconsin Poetry Magazine and a Bible. Sex Lives is finished, From the Top is in progress, Hawks is pending and Bible is ongoing forever.
Finished, in the works, on deck. I've read, I'm reading, I will be reading more.
This is how I love to live my life. Unfortunately, with a full time job, a wife, two kids, a ninety year-old house, a dog, two cats and a need to write, I don't get near the time to read that I would like. We have a friend who some Saturdays will spend nearly the whole day reading a book. There was a time in 1992 when Donna or I may have been able to do that. There hasn't been one since.
If I manage to squeeze in 45 minutes at night before bed, I'm doing pretty well. It is my biggest regret, lately. I'm not a terribly fast reader, so I don't churn through books like my wife, who devours them like popcorn. I have a list as long as my arm of things I want to read, yet may never get to.
Anyhow, the small bookcase is somewhat intentional. After we were nearly buried in books a few years back, we decided we had to do something. We packed up all but the "classics and keepers" and put them in a Rubbermaid totes down in the basement.
Do I feel horrible about those poor authors sitting in the basement? Yes, I do.
At the same time, I know where to go to visit them, if I must. It is not a slight against them, it's just that we realized that we were unlikely to pick them up and read them again. If we do, we'll go get them.
The ones on the bookshelf however are exceptions. They are the books of impact and that hold intrinsic value for one reason or another. A quick rundown of a few of them and why they hold significance for me.
- Hocus Pocus by Kurt Vonnegut. Favorite author of all time. Found the book at a garage sale in Door County and HAD to have it. Read all of his books.
- Blue Like Jazz and Unpainted Deserts by Donald Miller. One of my favorite contemporary Christian writers. He brings Christianity to the 21st century. He's raw at times, blunt at times, always poignant. Can't get enough of his stuff.
- The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. Wow about says it all. Poetic, inspirational, spiritual and about 180 layers deep. A must have for any bookshelf.
- Four Arguments for The Elimination of Television by Jerry Mander. A book I read in college that shaped my views on mass media and television. If you read it, you'll know why I think the cathode ray is the source of many of our world's problems today.
- The Home for Wayward Clocks and Enlarged Hearts by Kathie Giorgio. Two of three books written (and signed) by my writing instructor, mentor, good friend, literary confidant, off-the-cuff publicist, and number one fan. Her literary fiction is second to none. She goes places others don't dare and gets away with it.
- The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. Uhhh...ya got me there. I got nothin'. It's my wife's book, though I hear it's pretty good. Something about menstruation.
- Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist. Another great contemporary Christian writer, She, like Anne Lamott take Christian writing and turn it on its head a bit, which speaks to where I am as a Christian a bit.
- A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. Two words, read it.
- Dolphins Leaping in the Milky Way by Jeff Poniewaz. A book of poetry by a local Milwaukee environmetalist poet. I credit him with piquing my interest in poetry 25 years ago and a local poet Mario Medina for rekindling it a few years ago. Thank God for both of them.
So that is my rundown. In my next life, I'll own a house the size of Buckingham Palace and it will have a library with thousands of books. Until then, I'll keep tipping over the stack on my nightstand and visiting the Rubbermaid totes in the basement.