Where are the books?

By Tom Seymour | Apr 08, 2021

If I visit a house where there are no books, I wonder where they are.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that books have largely been supplanted by the Worldwide Web. Sure, you can find electronic versions of many popular and even classic books in electronic form, “e-books,” One or two of my own books are available as e-books. I have never personally read them or any other books in that form. Online books are not the same and never will be the same as real books, with real pages, the kind of books that you can hold in your hand.

Everyone needs books. You can return to a favorite book time and time again, like visiting an old friend. Books hold the key to wisdom. Books teach us and entertain us. Life would be dull and boring without books.

Besides being a source of knowledge and entertainment, some books have a special value all their own. First-edition books by famous authors may have considerable monetary value. And old classics, the kind that are bound in brown leather frames, serve as important decorative items.

In years gone by, people made a great deal of exhibiting their silverware. That was a family’s treasure and it was an important part of home décor. The same holds true today for books.

Even if you don’t have many books, displaying them in some form improves the appearance of a living room or study. Bookshelves were once an essential part of any house and in days past, bookshelves were included in the original building scheme. Unfortunately, too many owners of old houses fill their built-in bookcases with knickknacks rather than books.

Implied Value

Here’s something for those who are selling their home to think about. A would-be purchaser notices the presence of books or lack thereof. Having a bookshelf or two, filled with books, implies that you are a thinking person, the kind who would take good care of your house. Having books shows others that you are settled and dependable, the kind who considers things carefully, who studies and who does research on topics important to you. Having a collection of books on display shows that you are the kind of person that anyone would feel comfortable buying a used car or even a house, from.

No Rules

Let’s say you have a book collection that you would like to display. The good news is, there are no rules. In a contemporary setting, even some finished boards, stained a color of your choice and supported by concrete or granite blocks, might be appropriate. Then again, having a more elaborate bookcase built into or on a wall works almost anywhere.

Also, there is nothing wrong with a finished board, held to the wall with brackets, as a bookshelf. These can be spartan in appearance or elaborate as your imagination can make it. Such a bookshelf calls for bookends in either end to keep the books from falling down. Here again, these can be finely finished wood bookends or they might be the purely utilitarian, metal types sold in office supply stores. The choice is yours.

In my estimation, you can’t have too many books. With that in mind, my last house was designed with space for lots and lots of books. In the end, my office looked like the inside of a small-town library.

Imagine my joy in finding that the house I wanted to buy, and finally did buy, had plenty of built-in bookcases. Even so, after filling these there was still a need for more book storage and a stand-alone bookcase of pine boards finished in a maple stain served the purpose.

In this bookcase I keep my most-viewed reference books. The bookcase looks good and it serves a most useful purpose, which we ought to be able to say about any bookcase.

As a writer of non-fiction subjects, I need books for my research. I’ll often turn to the same book year after year, since there is usually something new that leaps out at me every time I open the covers.

Not everyone needs this many books, but everyone can benefit by having at least some books. And putting your books on display adds an element of value that would otherwise be lacking.

Building a simple, stand-alone bookcase does not require extensive carpentry skills. Anyone with the most basic tools can do it. But if you definitely are not a do-it-yourself type, it probably won’t take a carpenter more than an hour to build you a fine bookcase.

There is another option. Visit the nearest unfinished furniture store and check out their offerings. If you find a bookcase that you think would look good in your place, you are only a small can of Minwax away from the finished product. This kind of furniture comes completely sanded and all you need do it to apply your choice of finish.

Even the used-furniture stores offer potential choices for bookcases. Sometimes you can find a great deal on a great, old bookcase in these places.

So if you have books but aren’t displaying them, consider the options laid out here. That way when someone comes to visit, they won’t say to themselves, “Where are the books ?”

Tom Seymour, of Frankfort, is a homeowner, gardener, forager, naturalist, Registered Maine Guide, amateur astronomer, magazine and newspaper columnist and book author.

If you appreciated reading this news story and want to support local journalism, consider subscribing today.
Call (207) 594-4401 or join online at knox.villagesoup.com/join.
Donate directly to keeping quality journalism alive at knox.villagesoup.com/donate.
Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.
Note: If you signed up using our new subscriber portal, your username is the email address you registered with and your password is in all caps