When I was in Kindergarten, my teacher gave me a bookmark that said,”my books are friends that never fail me.” It turns out to have been a prescient gift, since I spent much of elementary school (and jr. high and high school) feeling quite friendless, except for my books. However, since college, I’ve sadly mistreated my book friends–schlepping them around the country in boxes, unpacking haphazardly (if at all) and throwing them on shelves willy-nilly. Since we’re completely snowed in this weekend, and my husband has an apparently limitless tolerance for playing Yahtzee with my children (bless him!), I’ve been getting reacquainted with my old friends and trying to find a more comfortable and orderly arrangement for them. I’ve learned a few things:
1) I’m really, really, really Mormon. I don’t have a lot of the standard markers of Mormonism in the rest of my house–no Del Parsons Jesus, no framed copy of the Proclamation on the Family (I know you’re all shocked, shocked!)–but once you get to the bookshelves, my preoccupation is very clear. I think close to half of all the reading material in the house is Mormon-themed. I’m not sure what to think about that.
2) My Mormon books are heavy on secondary sources and really lacking in primary stuff. Also, Hugh Nibley is painfully overrepresented. My parents gave me _An Approach to the Book of Mormon_ the Christmas after I was baptized, and it became a tradition to give me a Nibley volume every year. I’ll have to start asking for volumes of Journal of Discourses instead. Also, there are a *lot* of books that I thought I had that are actually my dad’s. I know exactly where they are on my parents’ shelves, and somehow I carry those books around in my head, thinking they’re mine.
3) I don’t have enough poetry. There are embarrassing gaps–I can’t find my copy of _Leaves of Grass_, for instance. And there’s just generally not enough.
4) For someone who used to be in a graduate program in literature, I’ve got amazingly little lit. crit. It shouldn’t have taken me so long to figure out I was working on the wrong doctorate. Also, I’m horribly reluctant to get rid of books; it’s a safe bet that I won’t ever need _The New Historicism Reader_again (New Historicism having become very old very quickly), but I cling to it as some sort of talisman–as if maybe keeping my grad school books will make it less true that I’m 10 years older and markedly less well-read and articulate than I was back then, and that the academic world has moved on and I can’t just jump back in when Sam starts 1st grade.
5) It’s still too easy to sort the books into mine and my husband’s. I had always thought I’d have a literary marriage, that we would quote poetry to each other, that our individual dog-eared copies of the novels we loved before we met would take up residence next to each other and be mixed with hundreds of books we acquired and read together. It hasn’t turned out that way at all. For lots of reasons, it’s probably good that I married someone more sensible, but it still makes me a little sad.
6) There is, alas, no correlation between the number of books on housekeeping and home organization one owns and the actual condition of one’s house.
7) I’m still not very good at alphabetizing; when I get to those middle letters in the alphabet, I often have to start singing the song at the beginning. Golly.
8) I have written five pages in an *awful* lot of journals.
9) I still really, really love my books, but I’m happy to realize that as a grownup I finally feel like I have lots and lots of wonderful human friends. I’ll always be bookish, but it’s nice to not *need* my books quite so desperately.