Memories around books


I come from a family where reading is valued and books abundant, something which has undoubtedly shaped my taste (and given me an academic advantage). Books matter to me, not just as vessels for text, but as objects. The first thing I do when I spend more than one night in a new place is to place all the books I brought or bought somewhere where I can see them. In my eyes a shelf of books will always make a home more inviting, something I believe most book-lovers would agree on (and most real estate agents would question). Books may not be all I need to make a place a home but they are a good start.

After spending a few days handling my books as I selected which ones to place an ex libris in and carefully glued it on, I have started to think deeper about books as objects. Vessel of information/entertainment, object of beauty, identity marker, status symbol, paperweight, memorabilia and link to previous readers, there are so many roles a book can potentially fill. Of course in most cases the text is what is important, in which case the best answer to the eternal paper book vs ebook question is probably whatever is most convenient. However, the last few days have reminded me of just how full of memories some of my books are. Memories of past reads, of the person who gave the book to me or of the time I bought them. For some books those memories are more important to me than the actual texts.

I have really enjoyed spending some time with my books and rediscovering those memories. As of now 34 of my books have gotten bookplates, which feels like a good starting point. I also have a notebook where I write a few notes on each book I label, to remind myself why they are important to me. So those books are properly catalogued, even though none of my other books are.

I have found the whole process to be a good reminder of just why I like to surround myself with physical books, something I didn’t expect when I first decided that I wanted my own bookplates. I guess rearranging my bookshelves might have fulfilled the same purpose of spending time with my books, but this was more fun.

What about you, which roles do your books fill?


7 thoughts on “Memories around books

  1. Your list is pretty comprehensive where the inherent quality of books is concerned, but if I had to have a hierarchy I’d have to say it depended on the book. I also love to see bookplates in pre-owned books — there’s nearly always a story to guess at with them — though I lack the gumption and patience to put some in for myself, relying on merely writing my name on a flyleaf or two to assert ownership of valued texts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree that the hierarchy of roles differ from book to book. Most books I keep for their text, some for the memories and a few for their beauty (although I have culled the ones that were just beautiful, with nothing else to recommend them).

      I think I may have found bookplates a bit more intimidating if they hadn’t become a bit of a family tradition. I really liked seeing my own bookplate next to my grandmother’s in a few of the books I got from her.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I think I remember you writing earlier about that family tradition; I think mine was all about dedicatory inscriptions, and I’ve kept several books my parents wrote in for my birthday, Christmas or some accomplishment.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I really like dedications, both the ones given to me and the ones found in old books. Unfortunately I’m rather bad at writing them myself. When pressed I usually end up with a discreet “To X from Y, Christmas 20NN” in the fly leaf margin. Utilitarian but not very evocative.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been sitting here after reading (and rereading) this post trying to come up with something insightful to add. I can’t think of anything other than to say this is beautiful! I couldn’t agree more. As I read I kept thinking of the memories in my books – especially the ones I’ve shared with others. What a wonderfully written tribute. All I can add is a hearty AMEN!

    Liked by 1 person

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