Room of a Reader
It’s funny how a one-time habit of reading can still make a person continue to organise a room or a personal space around reading. It is as though once you’ve been a reader at any point in life, the collection of books and the surrounding of oneself with them doesn’t stop, even when the reading may have. How often have we lamented that we were once voracious readers, finishing a book every two days, but that the pace has drastically reduced? We blame social media and tech, resolving to do better.
But we are readers nevertheless, or at least our rooms indicate this. What constitutes this room of a reader? They are all subjectively but also invariably adorned with books of the past, present and future – the favourites we’ve read and probably will never read again but loved so much that we wish for them to be in our view every day, what we’re currently reading, and the ones that we wish to read.
I’ll give you a small picture of mine. A bedside table is a must, upon which rests the lamp that emits a comfortably dim light, water bottle, hand cream, lip balm and my Kindle. At the corner of my work desk is a small stack of magazines and journals that I like to skim through now and then. A couple of books are on the bed itself, on the side I don’t sleep on; these are for the nights that I want to find comfort in the feel and smells of a physical book and not a screen. They may be fiction or non-fiction, depending on what I wish to consume before sleep on that particular night.
Then there is the pièce de résistance- the large book shelf, against the wall facing me. It’s made up of two adjacent shelves built at a right angle, consisting of parallel slabs of wood, with a common corner of a beam that runs through from floor to ceiling. This displays – yes, the operative word, truth told! – most of my book collection. For a glimpse into my personal tastes: there are a few from childhood (Narnia, Harry Potter, Enid Blyton), a great deal of literary fiction (too many to name), even some textbooks from my college that I happened to plonk there and for some strange reason decided that they remain there (maybe for variety). There are books on food (Nigella Lawson, Nigel Slater, Laurie Colwin), a few self help books, very few travelogues (Bill Bryson, V.S Naipaul) and a scattering of comics (Clavin and Hobbes, Garfield, Tinkle).
This collection has seen a significantly slow growth in recent years, courtesy of Kindle. But what joy the sight of the book shelf brings. It’s a feeling of home within home.
As Jeanette Winterson writes, “Our eyes run over bookshelves, not alphabetically or sequentially, because we’re looking to find old friends, memories from the past, and new pleasures. That’s the glory of a bookshelf. No one ever said, “Come up and see my Kindle index.”
For many of us, we consume books on our e-readers, but we literally showcase our love for them through our shelves.