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Our shelves make us an open book

COVID lockdowns meant politicians and health experts shared their wisdom from the comfort of their own homes. The interviews provided a nightly through-the-keyhole experience. My wife and I even tried to anticipate Professor Linda Bauld’s latest floral backdrop. Would it be tulips, roses or even crysanths? In our defence, it was the lockdown after all. Even more fascinating were those in the public eye who chose to perch in front of their bookshelves. Reading the titles provided a welcome distraction from what was being said. Perhaps that was the idea all along. Politicians seemed particularly keen to get across the seriousness of their calling. Political and economic philosophy, including works by Smith, Hume and Keynes featured on several occasions. To be fair, I don’t recall our last prime minister of the month being interviewed in front of her reading matter. Recent mispronunciations of Seneca suggest that Roman political philosophy might not be her chosen bedtime reading. I don’t recall her former chancellor speaking from his study either. We’ll never know now if Economics for Dummies holds pride of place. The nightly bibliomania prompted some of us to consider how we populate our bookshelves. I believe there is a specialist firm that supplies books by the metre. If Mr Rees-Moog is tempted to call on their services, I’m sure they would be happy to supply by the cubit. Most of us will have taken more personal responsibility for our collections. American writer Walter Mosely suggested, “A bookcase will tell you all you want to know about that person.” Not sure about that, but we may be revealing more than we think about our personalities, our interests, and our organisational preferences. It’s not only what’s on our shelves, but how we arrange them. Some lifestyle sites even promote “books as art.” Subject matter is largely irrelevant, the more important matter being the colour of the cover. Penguin volumes with the orange spine for example, would enhance that cantaloupe-tinted feature wall. More serious shelf organisers order alphabetically or by genre. Others prefer a more organic approach, building book towers, stalagmite-like, growing from the floor up. A space can always be found in which to cram yet another volume. I had a university tutor whose office floor was covered in mountainous piles of books and papers. Visitors checked with the avalanche information service before entering. I suppose he was living in the Lucky Jim world of slapdash, unworldly academia, not too concerned by what others thought. At the other end of the spectrum, I have a good friend who files, records and writes short synopses of everything he reads. I probably lie somewhere in the middle. I considered including a photo of my shelves, but firstly, I would have to remove my collection of adult colouring and dot-to-dot puzzle books. A photo would also reveal shelves groaning with Brookmyres, Rankins, McDermids and Minas. Why has crime and its detection become the most popular genre? Author David Baldacci suggests we like the moral dimension with the Rebuses of the world eventually prevailing. We also like problem solving and an ending that ties up the loose ends. Not sure if that’s really me, though. Nearly every home has bookshelves, but for how much longer? My granddaughter, a bit of a hard-hearted Hannah, tells me you’re old if you have a bookshelf. Her book collection is the local library and my study is “soooo elderly hoarder.” I’m interrogated as to why I keep books that I’ll never read again. It’s difficult to explain to a youngster that you like to look, touch, and even smell your books. They revive memories of where you bought and read them in ways a Kindle can’t. I find it impossible to dispose of books and that’s nothing to do with being an Aberdonian. I even have a mental blacklist to whom I won’t lend because they failed to return a loan in the past. Sure, books are a pain to dust and flit and, when the day comes, someone will have to dispose of them. But the simple joy of holding a book outweighs any downside. Come to think about it, when the next pandemic and lockdown hit, politicians and experts will look dafter than usual seated in front of their kindles. Read more by Doug Marr: Classroom threats and violence put teachers in the firing line No wonder teachers are wary of school trips

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Published on : 2022-11-14 05:22:00

Source :heraldscotland

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