contacting the author direct) made me think, which I like to do. His book prompted me to lift my game in managing my own books.
One of the joys of reading is savouring the experience of opening a door into another person’s mind. Thanks to his book, containing 42 sets of observations on the books in his personal library, I feel that I know Bill a little better. We share the love of picking up a physical book and turning the page, each book with its own shape, texture and smell, but we ask ourselves, will books survive the digital age?
Just like Bill, I’ve been wondering what will happen to my books after I draw my final breath. What will my daughter do with them? Bill has inspired me to create an action plan – at least in terms of identifying the books which should be kept within the family. Note to self - I must attach a list of these books to my will!
I discovered a like mind in Bill’s keeping of a list of the books he’s read. But his lists go back decades, while mine started in 2011. His life has clearly been more settled than mine, enabling systems to be maintained more easily.
Unlike Bill, I don’t know how many actual published books I own, either in total or by genre.
My own attempts to establish a sorting system for the books on my own shelves always fail because I run out of room on the right shelf. I end up shoving a newly-acquired book into any bit of vacant space. Next time I need it, I can’t remember where I put it. I’m sure that doesn’t happen to Bill.
The only books which are easy to lay my hands on when I want them are my cook books, which are stored in a separate cabinet near my kitchen. Every now and then I consult one for a recipe. My collection of children’s books are also easy to find, on a set of book shelves in the room where my four grandchildren sleep when they visit, but I don’t know why I bothered to keep these books for so many decades. The children spurn them, complaining about the small font size and the lack of white space on the pages. However they loved ‘Seven Little Australians’ when I read it aloud to them.
My reading tastes are as eclectic as Bill’s, if somewhat different in specific areas. Bill is obviously a collector, whereas I would describe myself as a simple devourer of reading material. Being of a similar age, we have traversed much the same reading ground in our adult years- the women’s movement, the sexual revolution, the era of pop psychology, travel books. I also share some of Bill’s rather highbrow tastes – books for wordsmiths, philosophical works, expositions of mathematical theories, history books, art and architecture books. We diverge in other subject areas. For example, finance and economics have a place on my bookshelves but not on his. Many of my novels are ‘literary’, and many are written by Australian authors, just like Bill's, but he would not approve of my collection of Lee Child thrillers, or the Mills & Boons I acquired as a member of a romance-writing group.
We share a love of walking into the world’s libraries but Bill goes further and says he can’t resist a bookshop, whereas I become overwhelmed at having to choose from the deluge of titles on offer. Rather than browse, I prefer to enter a bookshop with a specific title in mind.
Thank you Bill, it was good to read the product of an ordered mind. Your black & white pen drawings add a nice architect’s touch to the pages. Anyone who has a stash of books at home will benefit from reading your book and will be inspired to ponder: 'To have, or not to have?'.