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Legal Research

: Ballad in Plain E

Trendy home libraries?ugh.

By emma wood

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Most of the people in this article sound like complete idiots. (Or at least their clients sound like idiots.) I’ll be the first to acknowledge that books can be a lovely visual aspect of a room, but come on. Sure, I haven’t read every book that’s stored in my bookcases, but at least I didn’t choose them based on colour or binding material (though there’s a time and place for everything).

“Because libraries are public rooms, oftentimes the books are purely decorative and don’t say as much about the family who lives there. The books that people really read, like paperback novels and how-to guides, often are kept out of sight elsewhere in the home.”

If this is true, that’s awfully sad. I’ve always thought that people’s bookshelves are a wonderful glimpse into their personalities. A stack of Calvin & Hobbes says just as much (if not more) than a row of leather-bound classics. And anyway, if you’re the kind of person who likes paperbacks and how-to books, why would you be embarrassed of it? My Dummies guides live comfortably alongside chick-lit and Can Lit hardcovers, and I like to think that en masse, they’re a good representation of who I am. I personally wouldn’t want to impress someone who would actually be impressed by row upon row of leather-bound classics.

Of these so-called libraries, an interior designer notes that “most of his wealthy clients want one, even if they do most of their reading online.” Okay, so maybe I’m a purist. I will concede the libraries don’t mean just “books” anymore. And I know we’re never supposed to do or say anything to discourage anyone from reading. But if a library’s not a library, why not just call it what it is? Whatever happened to “living room” or “den”? Maybe it’s just semantics, but I think this is ridiculous. A library without books? (Or maybe what I really mean is, “A library without books that actually get read?”)

The people in the last couple paragraphs have their priorities straight. I agree wholeheartedly with author Jay McInerney, who says, “If you’re not reading what’s on your bookshelves, you should find something else to decorate with.” After all, like Anne Fadiman, I am a carnal lover of books; I believe they are meant to be loved, to be dogeared, to be taken off the shelf and read.

P.S. Thanks, Oprah, for letting me take a tour of your “book-filled haven in California where no one ever says, Shhhh!”

Full post as published by Ballad in Plain E on September 16, 2008 (boomark / email).

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