The circles that you find in the bookshelves of your mind.

“So… have you READ all these books?” Uttered in tones ranging from confusion to awe.

We get this question pretty often; almost every time someone who is not part of our immediate circle of friends or family comes over. Friends and family are for the most part similarly voracious readers who only take note of the booksheves to see if anything new and interesting has been added since the last visit.  I do the same thing when I go to their houses.

But “random” people- a neighbor, a pampered chef consultant, someone who is here to fix the linoleum in the kitchen- are usually pretty stunned at the sight of the bookshelves in the dining room. We aren’t talking “library” here, but the shelves are large and very full of an interesting (at least to us) mix of reference, science fiction, fantasy, philosophy, classics, novels, and so on. I’m not sure if it’s the quantity or the content that strikes visitors as surprising.

Sometimes I wonder if anyone reads anymore. Amazon seems to be doing quite well though, so I guess it’s just my neighbors and A/C repair people and Federal Investigators who no longer read for pleasure?

The Feds stand out in my mind. Very polite men who came to ask us questions about former relative who shall remain nameless that I hadn’t spoken to or thought much about in many years.  Apparently he’s added fraud and theft to his other irritating hobbies. I can’t say I was completely surprised, given that I never liked the guy that much. But there’s other people I’m not terribly fond of who aren’t felons, so it was definitely noteworthy. Plus the investigators had very impressive badges, which were fun to look at since they weren’t being aimed at us, so to speak. I’d never met real detectives before.

In the course of their inquiries, one of them suddenly turned to me and said, “I have to ask- have you actually READ all these books?” and I found myself momentarily sidetracked. “Um…yes.” I replied, but added meekly that I hadn’t actually read all the reference stuff cover to cover.

They shook their heads in wonderment. One volunteered that all he read these days was the newspaper, and then they went back to asking us questions about the aformentioned individual. And after a while they thanked us for our time and commented favorably on my husband’s collection of switchblades (NO, he wasn’t waving them around in a menacing fashion; they live in a case on the wall thank you very much) , remarked again on the large number of books, and departed.  I was left feeling as if I had briefly entered someone else’s story and then had to leave without getting to see the end.

We also wondered, after they had left, what conclusions these trained detectives had formed about us while they were in our home asking us questions. I mean, they sum people up for a living, right? Did they get a deeper insight into who we were by observing us in our natural habitat than say, the linoleum people did? Does our couch actually define us as people? What about  the “Buffy” DVDs and my wind-up green plastic snail?

And these books that left them and other visitors so thoroughly bemused… Do they really say anything about us other than that we read a lot? Maybe I need to rethink my whole bookshelf strategy. Up to now it’s been to put the books on the shelf wherever they fit, and roughly organize them by author/category.  But if I were more selective about what was on view, I could perhaps convince casual visitors that I am incredibly intellectual, or that we are really culturally sensitive and environmentally correct.

Or I could just go get a bunch of books about penguins. And then when someone asked what was up with all the penguin books I could look furtive and change the subject. If they pressed further I could allude briefly to time spent in Antarctica, and then say the memories were just too painful. Let’s see what they make of that.  😛

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  1. #1 by Eileen Flieg on December 11, 2012 - 9:11 pm

    Kind of like the time I had ours pastors over for dinner and he asked about all the witchcraft books in the bookcase. I had to explain about the class I took in college…

  2. #2 by AcornGirl on February 15, 2013 - 9:12 pm

    What did he say when you explained?

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