April 15, 2010

The Bookcase

What is a bookcase? A case for books? That seems logical…but when I got to thinking about what goes into a bookcase many different possibilities presented themselves.

We can start with the construction of the bookcase itself. A bookcase can be made of whatever materials are available; stone, wood, metal, glass, laminated particle board, stacked up milk crates, whatever. The shelves can be evenly spaced or of varying heights. Bookcases can be “built in” or free-standing. Some have doors and some do not.

After examining the construction of the bookcase, what about the content …the books. For instance, is it really a “bookcase” if it only houses magazines? What if they are National Geographic, not Cosmo? I suppose this leads to the question of paperback versus hard cover. Can they coexist in one bookcase?

Once the books (or reasonable facsimile) are ready to go onto the shelves…in what order do you place them? There is much debate regarding how to order the books. Some people believe in alphabetical by author...while others enjoy books grouped by subject. Then there are those who throw caution to the wind, take the jackets off and group books by colour. COLOUR? I’m not sure how you ever find what you are looking for.

And what about objects? You know collectables, often times cheesy collectables, that find there way into bookcases…BOOKcases.

Bookcases take a lot of thought and care.

When your mom has a massive book collection, which has grown since you were a child, you spend a lot of time thinking about the construction of bookcases. In my childhood home my father built a gigantic bookcase on our stairwell landing. The enormous custom bookcase was over eight feet tall and over 6 feet wide. Whenever I was sent to my room upstairs…I’m sure I was innocent…I would sit at the top of the stairs and stare at those books. The top two-thirds of the bookcase were mom’s fictional novels. My mom was a diehard alphabetizer. New books had to somehow be swallowed into the fold. This meant that often times there were piles of books sitting on the front edge of the bookcase waiting to be inserted into their rightful spot. Mom spent big bucks on the hardcover editions of most books. I think she was just too darn eager to wait for the paperback version to be released.

The bottom third of the bookcase was reserved for “coffee table” style books. These books examined art, gardening, my father’s collections of WWI and WWII books, motorcycle books, books of poetry, encyclopedias, etc. These were the books filled with beautiful pictures and enormous amounts of knowledge. Does anyone even remember encyclopedias anymore?

As my mother’s collection grew and grew so did our need for spaces to put the books. Thus my father got out the wood, screws and saw once again…constructing a floor to ceiling bookcase in our livingroom. This bookcase was filled with more fiction. This case became home to my mom’s prized possessions. Her magnificent Agatha Christie collection…I’m not quite ready to read those yet….but we’ll talk about those another time. If memory serves me this is also where Sue Grafton’s books landed.

In my current home I have two half bookcases (about 3' tall). These bookcases are constructed out of simple veneered particle board...you may be familiar with the Billy collection. Half of one bookcase is almost exclusively schooling related texts, mine and Andrew’s. The others are various books of fiction collected over the years. The books run both vertically and horizontally. I wish I could say that there is an order to them…but really there isn’t. I seriously don’t know how my mom did it...I say that a lot. I can’t keep two miniscule bookcases alphabetized and she kept a small library in order.

Perhaps my most prized bookcases are the ones in my girls bedrooms. They too come from the Billy collection, we do love IKEA. These bookcases house a sampling of books from mine and Andrew’s childhoods, along with new books. The new books include bright baby board books, Eric Carle, Sandra Boynton, Disney, Junie B. Jones, Roald Dahl, the complete Mr.Men Collection, etc. There are the books I vividly remember reading…50 or so Dr.Suess books. Hans Christian Anderson, Grimm, Lee, Berenstein, Sweet Pickles Series, Silverstien, Golden Books, etc…the authors and collections of my youth. Not to mention the classics; Judy Blume, Trixie Belden, Alice in Wonderland, the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nihm, Wind in the Willows, Beatrix Potter, Gordon Kormon, Encyclopedia Brown, etc, etc…the books we haven’t even delved into yet.
Some of my most valuable books are the ones inscribed by my great-grandmother, my grandmothers and my mom. Books purchased and given with deep thought and affection. I hope someday my girls will hold these books in their hands and feel the emotion that I do. The wafts of memories that rise up from the pages. These bookcases are filled with joyous, imaginative, beautifully illustrated, humourous, sometimes scary, mysterious, well loved and well used books...placed in no particular order.

1 comment:

  1. Jennifer..I enjoyed reading this entry and my favorite line was "I hope some day my girls will hold these books in their hands and feel the emotion that I do." What a slendid way to put it.
    I know your Mom would be proud of this entry.