What are YOU reading at the moment?
I was in a charity shop the other day, which had a notice on the door: Please do not donate any more books. Our shelves are full! There’s a turn-up for the – er – books. Time was, I can recall them begging for them. Incidentally, I have noticed that, in any charity shop, fete, fair or jumble sale, it is the books section that is the most popular – usually with men, for some reason.
I envy the choice of books children have these days. They have so many more than we did. An ex-boyfriend of mine, being of artistic bent, used to collect children’s books for their exquisite illustrations. (Sadly for me, he took them all when he left.) There are now even bookshops entirely devoted to just children’s books. Heaven! You would never have got me out of there when I was that age. As it was, I loved my weekly visits to our local library and would use not only my ticket but my mother’s and sister’s as well (they didn’t mind).
“You can never have too many books,” I used to say, airily, to people who commented on the huge amount I had. I firmly believed this, until the day came to move house and I was cursing them all as I spent hour after hour after hour packing them up into box after box after box…
However, having been an avid reader all my life, I do find it odd to go into some people’s homes and not see a single book anywhere. It makes me uneasy. I think you can tell an awful lot about someone from what they read, though God knows what people make of me when they see the wildly eclectic mix of titles on my shelves. Books make a home; stop it from looking too sterile. They are a decoration in their own right – some people even arrange theirs in colour groups to tone in with their décor. A bit OTT, perhaps, but at least they have some to arrange (I do hope they READ them as well)!
I have started to notice that adverts for homes for sale and photos of homes in the glossy magazines often have no books anywhere. This disturbs me. I search for them in vain. No cookery books in the kitchen. Nothing on the coffee table in the living room, or even on the bedside table. What do they DO without books in their life?! I just can’t imagine it. (Perhaps they are all like someone I once knew, who couldn’t understand why I kept my favourite books to re-read again. I asked her if she played her favourite records over and over again. Same thing, in my book; no pun intended.)
Pictures of retirement flats, in particular, always depress me. They are usually very small (it’s a well-known trade “secret” that furniture is built especially scaled-down to fit show homes, to give the impression of more space than there actually is), with little or no outside space and no sign of the aforementioned books, nor even any favourite knick-knacks or photographs, etc. Bland and sterile and devoid of any warmth. I mean, there’s downsizing and getting rid of clutter and too many possessions (see my last blog for more about this) and then there’s going to the other extreme entirely.
Homes seem to be built so small now, the need for extra storage has never been greater. I have read about people paying out for container space for the things they can’t fit into their minute homes, and visiting their precious possessions each week. That’s sad.
I once looked at a flat in a new conversion block. The reception desk to register your interest was in the small room you walked straight into off the street. I politely asked where the living room was.” You’re standing in it,” was the helpful response. I didn’t bother looking round the rest of it.
Anyway. Taking a breather from dipping in and out of my current pile of books (I always have more than one book on the go; doesn’t everyone?!), I’m off out to those charity shops I mentioned earlier. When I left home for good, many years ago now, I rashly gave away most of my childhood books and have started to buy them back when I can. I don’t think those predominantly male customers are going to be interested in Peter Pan or Mary Poppins or Worzel Gummidge… are they?!