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Friday, September 16, 2011

The Lament of Homes Without Bookcases...

Picture from The Telegraph 
Date:  Sept. 14, 2011

Reading The Telegraph's article yesterday on the dearth of books and bookcases in modern homes, I was just sickened.
What a loss for all of us who love books and feel at home in the homes of those who have them.  I pray this will not become a national plague.

Harry de Quetteville, author of the article in note, poses the question, "Without books, how are we supposed to furnish a room?"  He's so right, as far as I'm concerned.  A former interior designer, I know the warmth and anchor a bookcase can give to a room.  It can often be the most beautiful of case pieces in a room, holding artful volumes that give a small window of insight into the hearts and minds of their owners.  A room without books and bookcases is like a woman without her perfume and jewelry.  It lacks luster and lasting beauty...it hints at no mysteries.

The author quips, "The demise of the dust-jacketed tome, with all its spine-cracking, page-turning charms, is a reason to lament. How else will one make snap judgments about other people if one cannot run one’s eye along their Penguin Classics? Kindles and iPads look the same, whether you are reading Jackie or Wilkie Collins. "

Oh, so right!  How can we possibly see what others are reading?  It's a little picture of who they are. It's a small inkling of what makes them tick.  Gives insight into whether we'll find them interesting, intelligent, adventurous, dull and lackluster or whatever.  Kindles and iPads are great; and, they have their place in our lives, but how sad when we don't get to sneak a peek at our neighbor's book covers  in public just to find out what they're reading!  It's been one of my favorite passtimes at the airport and bookstores.  The same goes for their living spaces.

I thought it was ironic, too, when the article finished with the idea that some coffee tables would be holding large photo books on decorating.  Books...but books for display only, about walls without books.  Talk about an oxymoronish picture.

I for one rarely ever find friendship with someone who doesn't have books in their livingroom/greatroom.  What could we possibly have in common?  If someone doesn't read or care enough about books to have them, I would have nothing to say to them that would be on an intelligent level.  It's difficult for me to make superficial small talk.  Also, I could care less about what other decorations spot the room!  Furnishings and arrangements are also superficial in most cases unless there are personal items peppering the room.  There's really nothing new about furniture under the sun, in my opinion, except new fabrics.
I also read this week that sales of ebooks have sharply risen this year, while hard copy book sales have fallen.  That really concerns me.  That's like putting them on a "soon to be extinct" list!

I'm a writer as well as a reader.  My reviews are a format for my writing and are held up by the books I read.  My best work comes out of hard copies.  There's nothing like an honest-to-goodness book for reading; it's warm, tactile, smells wonderfully of glues and paper, has beautiful cover artwork to return to, often includes decorative end pages and internal pages, can be flipped around in and taken notes in (though I don't write in mine), and so much more. 

I lose the continuity in an ebook.  I sometimes lose the connection with the characters on and off.  There's just something missing where an ebook is concerned and I never feel I've given a review my best when it comes from an ebook instead of a real book.

Will our grandchildren loose the special experience of a book in hand?  They already read by Kindle, Nook, iPad and laptop, as we know...  
Anyway, these are my thoughts about books and lamenting their slow loss in our homes and laps.  What say you about the situation?
Are you concerned or not?  Do you favor one or the other?
The one who has too many books in her greatroom 

*I want to especially thank my dear friends who have left comments on this post.  Their messages highlight different aspects of having and saving books, and I encourage you to take a look at them.


Deborah Batterman

I couldn't agree more re: the sensory aspects of holding a book . . . and, yes, book shelves add warmth to a room. I even think words seem a little more fleeting on a screen. And, yet, I go back and forth between paradigms. I appreciate the ease of travel with my iPad, not to mention the immediacy of getting a book I want within seconds. But it will never replace the 'real' thing for me. Great post.

Cathy K

Lovely blog BookishDame and yes, yes, yes, a book in hand or sitting expectantly on the shelf with all the others, bindings akimbo to get the very best view of the room, is one of the great pleasures of life...

(you can find me on facebook - Cathy Kozak)


It always shocks me to go into a home with no bookshelves or books in sight. It happened much to frequently when I babysat a lot. It's a shame!


I strongly agree with this article. This is why I started The BookCase Project (BCP) on my Facebook page. The BCP will serve as an archival site celebrating books. The address is:

Teresa Cypher

The absolute saddest is a home with young children, and not a child's book in sight! One of the first ways that I connect with people (find common ground) is to ask what they have read lately. Although I don't limit my friendships to just readers, it seems that I have the most in common with people who do read.

What say I about the death of books at the hands of ebooks? Not in my lifetime...I don't think. People of our generation love the feel, the heft, the small of a real book. We love the sound of turning pages. I like to look at them on my bookcase and often refer to them as "old friends". One of my most prized possessions is a big old dictionary over a hundred years old, 2,000 pages on India paper. A kindle will never compete with something like that.

I did read an article that brought to light a true dilemma down the road. All the things that are produced in digital formats today, books, music, photos,videos, will be where in 25 or even 50 years? The archive quality and planning for such is sadly lacking.

Good post, Bookish Dame :-) Thanks :-)


As I sit surrounded by three generations of books, that is, books handed down to me, books I acquired myself, books that belong to my daughter, I find it inconceivable that there could come a day when homes have no books. How cold and empty that sounds.
I have a Nook and and Ipad both with books, and I find I too loose connections with characters and feel like I am reading in a black hole sometimes. And they don't smell good like a book does.
Thanks for posting this and helping to keep the love of (physical) books alive.

Jennifer | Mrs Q Book Addict

I tend to buy ebooks of books I already own. If I don't have the book and I loved the ebook i'll buy a copy for my bookcases. I love reading on my reader but my books are a collection.

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