Friday, February 12, 2010

When the Bookshelf Breaks...

I would be the most content if my children
grew up to be the kind of people
who think decorating consists mostly of
building enough bookshelves.
~Anna Quindlen


A few weeks ago, as the kids and I sat in the living room reading together, a strange and unfamiliar sound greeted our ears. It was sort of a muffled crack, then a sliding sound, and then a dull thud. Alarmed, I put down my book and looked around. The cause of the sound was quickly discovered: one of the large bookshelves in our living room had cracked, slid sideways, and thumped against an adjoining wall.

How many books do you have to have crammed on to a bookshelf before you break it?

198 books plus a couple dozen magazines/catalogs, apparently. At least that's what was on ours.

This shelf held such beloved classics as the entire Little House series, Charlotte Mason's Original Homeschooling Series, Anne of Green Gables, and A Christmas Carol, along with some dictionaries, encyclopedias, a few science books, and a huge volume on The Second World War.

Ah, lovely bookshelf.

Contemplating what to do about this problem, and realizing that if we got rid of this particular bookshelf, we would suddenly have nearly 200 homeless books, we got sneaky. What are homeschoolers, if not frugal fixer-uppers? So we took all the books off the shelf, moved it over to where it is in the corner, leaning against both walls, lined it up as straight as we could, adjusted the shelves, and put the books back on. Now you don't even notice that it's just the tiniest bit crooked...unless you know to look for the crookedness!

The problem now is that the shelf, one of a pair that sat on either side of our piano, is totally off center. As I sat pondering this problem, the solution came to me! We have run out of shelf space for books anyway, so we need more shelves (especially with the 100+ new books coming in for next year's curriculum). I am thinking, we can buy two more bookshelves identical to the ones we already have (and I checked online, we can still get those same ones!). We can then line them up, TWO on either side of the piano, which solves both the problems of making things symmetrical once more and giving us more shelf space at the same time.

And no one will ever notice that the onc shelf is just an inch or so crooked at the top, unless we point it out to them.

We love books at our house.

We have the two bookshelves in the living room, two more in our bedroom, one in each of the kids' bedrooms, and another one in the dining room. Besides this, there are three large boxes full of books in our bedroom closet and at least 10 or 12 more boxes full of books in the attic. Every once in a while, I crawl up there and switch out books.

Books are one of those things that I cannot bear to part with. I don't understand how anyone could throw away a book (well, I did throw away A Child Is Born with the photographs by Lennart Nilsson after I found out many of the pics were of aborted babies). I can't even bear to give away a book most of the time (what if I want to read it again?) I'm cautious about loaning out books, because too often they never come back.

Our children were taught to love and respect books from early on - very early on. Never--not once--did any of our children ever chew on a book, tear a book, or color in a book. The few books we have like that in our house are ones that other people's children have vandalized while at our house. It is the greatest test of my self-control not to react in anger when a child ruins one of my books.

We are lovers of books. They are friends, old and new. They are adventures and memories, from board books to Little Golden Books to Newberry Classics to Shakespeare and Poe, and everything in between.

So, we may overload a bookshelf now and then. But books--what a great thing to have too many of.

Or can you ever really have too many books?

I don't think so.

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends;
they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors,
and the most patient of teachers.”
~Charles Eliot, former President, Harvard University

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