Bookcase Buddies

Kitchen book shelf

Kitchen book shelf

Writer fellow Mike Allegra recently shared glimpses of his tidy and bountiful bookshelves on his blog. His impressive library made me wonder:  Dewey Decimal system? Library of Congress? Alphabetical by author? By title? By genre?

I confess, I’ve borrowed books from our local library that I am positive that I own, but cannot locate. It’s not that I own that many books. (Really, can one own TOO many books?) And they are not disorganized, at least in my mind. They are suffering from merger by marriage.

At one time, my apartment was bursting with  college and grad school textbooks, as well as pleasure reading from Wordsworth, the Harvard Coop and a terrific used bookstore just off Brattle Street. I had everything beautifully organized, exactly as I wanted. With marriage came compromise. I merged my books with hubby’s, and shelf space was at a premium.  Although our music collection was easily transferred to iPods and shared MP3 files, those books cannot likewise be transformed into Kindle or Nook formats!

Among the duplicates, we chose one to store, one to shelve.  We kept both copies of The Joy of Cooking, because we had each annotated our favorite recipes.  Then those shelves became crowded with manuals on home renovation, then Dr. Spock and The Baby Whisperer, then books on autism and special education.  More old favorites were moved into storage, battling mildew and neglect in neatly labeled boxes stacked to the ceiling.

Just one picture book pile!

Just one picture book pile!

Now that my picture book collection is burgeoning, I’m craving a library/preschool style picture book case like Carrie Finison’s.  Although I’d have to compromise with my kids on displaying and rotating all of our favorites, I have plenty of experience!

What books do you like to keep at your fingertips?

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About Cathy Ballou Mealey

Children's book author, repped by Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency. Wife, mother, daughter, sister, alumna, autism advocate, book reviewer. Reach me via email at cmealey@post.harvard.edu or Twitter @catballoumealey
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34 Responses to Bookcase Buddies

  1. rnewman504 says:

    Cathy,
    I bet after 21 years you can claim those library books through adverse possession.
    I am a book thief. I admit it. I buy books for my son and they gradually seem to make their way into my office. Permanently. It’s rare when I don’t have at least one James Marshall book somewhere in the mess. (I actually suffer withdrawal symptoms if Miss Nelson goes missing.)

    • It’s mostly those slim poetry volumes Robin – where did I store Mary Oliver? Or Rilke? It’s a shame to have to borrow them from the library when I know my own copies are in one of the stacked boxes. If only I could find the correct box!

      Never lose Miss Nelson! Maybe buy an extra copy?

  2. Tina Cho says:

    We have 2 bookcases—1 for children’s books and 1 for books for my husband and me. But the kids’ bookshelf is overflowing! That is funny how our collection of books has changed from college books to marriage to baby and now to children!

  3. Oh boy, did you really have to go and start this? I think I still have some PBs in the garage, from the day my teens were toddlers and decided to haul half of their belongings out there!

  4. Thanks for the lovely shout-out, my friend! But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Jilanne Hoffmann, who came up with this idea and urged me to participate. If you peek at her blog, you’ll find links to other bloggers’ jam-packed shelves.

    http://jilannehoffmann.com/2013/06/15/revealing-my-boo-ks-some-of-them/

  5. Besides the preschool style case (would you believe I found that on a streetcorner in Brookline?) we all have bookshelves in our bedrooms, and an ‘overflow’ bookshelf in the attic that we use to rotate things in and out.

    I’ve actually gotten rid of a lot of books, too. I have a Kindle and I love it. But for certain kinds of books, and for old favorites, I’ll never get rid of the paper-and-board versions.

  6. What a fun post. I believe my Hubby brought the Joy of Cooking to our marriage in both book and in-real-life form. Earlier this month, I feared getting evacuated from my home and the kindle was the only thing I had ready to go. (It wasn’t an immediate danger, but the evacuation areas are rightfully large and expansive). Later, I thought of several books that I would never be able to replace. They are on my mind, if that happens again!

    • That’s pretty scary to contemplate evacuation. Those fires were devastating for CO. I could replace “Joy” but I’d grab the binder of 4X6 recipe cards written by my mom, aunts, grandmothers and friends if forced to flee!

  7. izatrapani1 says:

    Oh yes, the overflow of books…And two copies of Joy of Cooking here as well 🙂 Luckily, I have a large studio which is filled with picture books, of course, but also field guides, nature/animal books, writing reference books, Mother Goose and children’s song treasuries….I love being surrounded with books, though it would be nice to have them all face out.
    So nice to see one of mine in your collection. Thanks, Cathy!

  8. jama says:

    I’ve always wanted one of those “face out” bookshelves like Carrie’s too. I really really really need to weed through my shelves and donate books I’m no longer interested in to make room for new ones. The Kindle has helped me purchase fewer novels in print, but I gotta have my picture books — and they do take up a lot of room with their different trim sizes.

  9. You should see my house. I already have to many books OUT (you can never ever ever ever ever EVER have to many books!) (1 cabinet is STUFFED with books and my make-shift bookshelf is crammed!) – and only 1/4 of my books are unpacked!

  10. Great post. I guess we are all guilty. In finally went through my three book shelves and removed books that haven’t been read and I no longer want and donated them to Planned Parenthood. Still have more to let go of. But, at least my shelves look tidy. My cookbooks are in the closet in the kitchen on a designated shelf. Works great.

  11. I have to admit that I have Carrie Finison envy, too. I love her bookshelf. And as long as we’re talking envy…what about Iza’s studio! About me and the books I own–or would love to own??? Too many books…too little space. I dream of a home library like those I have seen on Pinterest!

    • Oh Pinterest – that’s dangerous territory when it comes to book collecting!

      Yes, I envy Iza’s studio big time. In fact, which blog is it that features a “peek” into a writer and/or illustrator’s studio on occasion? Definitely sparks my green-eyed monster!

  12. Cathy,
    I can’t remember where I got the glimpse of her studio! But it is a beautiful and writerly place!

  13. Sue Wang says:

    As a book lover, it is hard for me to share shelves, or books (gasp!). I do go through my books periodically to sell/trade. Sometimes I “shop” in my study. Pull out a book, read, admire, and put back. I wonder what it is about bookstores -I can read there all day…but not at home. I also love a physical book. My Kindle sits in a cubby and collects free ebooks I hear about. And the Joy of Cooking -oy. Nowadays it’s Conscious Cleansing :p

  14. Joanna says:

    The only thing that has worked for me, is regularly moving countries. Each time I have had to give away 100s of books! *sob*

    • When you find your long-term home, you must acquire a large bookcase immediately Joanna!

      • Sue Wang says:

        When I moved West I gave away 100s of books to the local library. The only book I’d regret giving away was Holloway’s hardcover “Connect.” Otherwise -spread the joy of nice books. You are doing a lot of people a favor! But I agree w/Cathy. Get a large bookcase/library (my dream) when you land a permanent residence 🙂

  15. Heyya Cathy! I agree with Penny. Iza posted pics of her studio on her blog. EGAD, I covet that studio. *wink* We’re going to build an upstairs on our farmhouse and my office will be up there. I AM SO EXCITED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YIPPEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!

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