Yesterday I bought a bag.
Not a very exciting purchase you might think; perhaps not even worthy of mentioning in a blog, certainly not as the opening line.
But just look at the bag:
Yesterday’s new things: gorgeous tea, trainers for daughter, bag for me.
I simply couldn’t resist it. I have many reusable cotton bags and certainly don’t need any more. But it’s a pseudo-retro-print of ‘Jane Eyre’: the only book I am ever able to decide upon as my favourite book, one of the few books I will happily and regularly read again, and one of those novels which has shaped my life (perhaps a subject worthy of another blog post?)
It wasn’t cheap but it cheered me up. It is also full of library books awaiting their return today: it’s useful and beautiful.
But did I really need it? And why could I not resist another book-related ‘thing’, as useful and gorgeous as this is?
I already have these lovely things:
Book mugs on a book-table, book-ish notebooks (one is half written in (I feel I have to write ‘special’ things in it, not just shopping lists)
Our walls are decorated with books in so many different ways. The poster of Emily was bought on a ‘pilgrimage’ to Haworth when I was 14; framed for my 16th birthday: melodramatic, moi?! Its Wuthering Heights counterpart from The Shipley Art Gallery’s exhibition celebrating Penguin books a few years ago.
I simply love these things; both in terms of design and in what they represent.My book related accessories reflect my book obsession.
If can’t be reading when outside or socialising, then a bag, mug or jewellery is almost as good.
But, of course it isn’t. It’s aesthetic rather than actuality.
I have this bookcase in our living room (non-fiction):
And the other set in the living room is like this; this one’s double stacked (fiction, alphabetical):
You may be pleased to hear that I am not going to photograph every bookcase or pile of books in our house. I recently realised there are significant
Are you as frustrated as me that you can’t see the titles in this ‘to read’ pile?
numbers of books in every room, except for our small bathroom. (The only time a book’s in there is if we’ve left our bathtime reading on the floor, probably perilously close to a puddle of water. Books don’t last long in that room.)
Books are an alternative form of decoration. They’re bright and varied, intensely personal (if you really have chosen them yourself rather than buying them by the yard as I’ve heard of in hotels and pubs), and are a great form of insulation.
And yet, sometimes they are overwhelming. The bookcases tower above me, demanding my time, energy and interest. I feel a sense of guilt of ownership and pressure to read when I realise how many books I own. It’s almost although I’m behind with my homework. (I’m always behind with my housework)
But who’s pressurising me to accumulate, to read, to feel overwhelmed?
Well, there’s this self-imposed structure of monthly reading themes and the discipline of writing this blog (this month’s theme reflection to follow soon-ish). There’s the feeling that I ‘should’ have read certain books, keeping up with the latest bestsellers or filling reading gaps in the classics canon (not many, admittedly; I spent most of my teenage years reading Victorian melodramas).
But why? Who cares what I’ve read?
And reading is (almost) never a waste of time.
I know books are inanimate, the pressure is internal, the guilt is misplaced. Most books are second hand, charity shop buys; my financial outlay is very modest compared to a habit of mortgage-sized shoes or excessively priced handbags (no, tote bags aren’t included in this!).
And, of course, books are so useful, aren’t they?
They DO something.
Books are much more than items of furniture or decoration; more than something to be looked at, their beauty proclaimed.
Their true value lies within.
Behind the covers you could encounter anything. No matter how new, glossy and vibrant or dog-eared, peeling and dull, the words within have the same potential to thrill and transform, entertain and educate. You cannot judge a book by its cover.
Hang on, that sounds like a profound message, a parable for life.
No matter how our ‘covers’ appear, our true value is within. It is discovered over time. You need to gently pick up the book, start to leaf through the pages, and spend energy, imagination and time in someone else’s company.
No, there’s never enough.
Perhaps I should be spending the time I lust after beautiful fripperies at The Literary Gift Company reading; the time I spend idly, aimlessly browsing on Amazon, reading; the time I spend looking at new Kindle covers, instead turning on my Kindle and reading; the time I spend browsing in the library, sitting in a corner reading. With a cup of tea in ‘The Common Reader’ mug, of course.
The book accessories are fun and nicely designed but I know they shouldn’t replace my reading resources, either time or money.
But my Jane Eyre cotton bag is so much more attractive than a plastic supermarket bag, don’t you think?