Category Archives: Living With Books

Living With Books 08: Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Books

Thatcher Wine of Juniper Books at http://juniperbooks.com/

Thatcher Wine of Juniper Books at http://juniperbooks.com/

As I taught Revolutionary history this past spring, it was hard not to be inspired by the struggles founding fathers went through in finding their way to the wording that now serves as the central spirit of American life:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Want to get in the spirit? This clip from the HBO series John Adams is one of my favorites in capturing the emotion of the era.

Wherever you are, here’s to enjoying your celebration of Independence Day. Here’s to kids splashing in the lake, to families getting together with those they’ve been apart from. My boys and I will begin our road trip this week to visit family in North Carolina and DC, and stay at my parents’ house in Connecticut, built only 5 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed. And here’s to those who can’t be with their families, as they serve to protect freedom around the globe.

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As for this little celebration of Living With Books, I post this picture to encourage you to check out the website for Juniper Books The curated book display creating the American flag was designed by Thatcher Wine of Juniper Books, and shared by Random House.

What is Juniper Books? Fantasy job for all of us who love living with books: Thatcher has achieved some fame, curating custom book collections for individuals, designers, architects and hotels. He is particularly known for designing book jackets to create monochromatic displays or a thematic mural across spines of a collection. Sweet.

Read more about Thatcher’s work in this profile in the Financial Times, “Spine Tingling.”

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What about the fireworks?  Check out this great essay by my writing friend Kasie Whitener on shopping for fireworks, “Light Me Up, My Dear.”

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For prior editions of Living With Books:

Source: bookshelfporn.com; original source may be anthropologie.

Source: bookshelfporn.com; original source may be anthropologie.

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Living With Books 07: Reading Nooks for Children

This charming book house is in the Iowa Public Library (featured in Flavorwire's "10 Gorgeous Buildings Made Out of Books" by Emily Temple, Apr. 2012), but could be created in a children's room.

This charming book house is in the Iowa Public Library (featured in Flavorwire’s “10 Gorgeous Buildings Made Out of Books” by Emily Temple, Apr. 2012), but could be created in a children’s room.

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It’s January! Everyone is talking “new beginnings” — so what a perfect time for some fabulous children’s reading spaces in this month’s Living With Books!

For those of us who love books, reading is often a charmed and mystical memory from our childhood. We remember the first book we fell in love with, or a favorite place where we loved to read. It was a magical thing to get lost in the other world of a book.  In these pictures, designers, librarians and parents create that sense of fantasy in reading spaces for children.

Is this all just cutesy? Is it just over-the-top catalog art? 

Each month, I work with students on their independent reading goals and can say that, by sixth grade, at least a third of the kids come to me knowing how to read, but telling me they don’t like to read. This will be a challenge, as so much of their learning in the years ahead of them depends on reading. Plus, I can’t help feeling frustrated with them — as a child who doesn’t like reading most likely hasn’t hit on that one magical book, yet. On the other hand, I like to tell kids that famed YA writer Rick Riordan confesses he didn’t like reading until he was 13. For him, discovering mythology was transformative.

My oldest son now falls asleep reading every night — at 11, eager to dive back into the story he left off earlier in the day. But not long ago he hated reading – despised it, fought with tears running. Books were always present in our house, but buddy-reading through a couple great ones (Roland Smith’s Elephant Run was the first slam dunk!) communicated that reading was a shared hobby in the same way we might watch a movie together.

Fostering excitement about books and reading has the power to transform a reluctant reader. For those of us who grew up Living with Books, the presence of books in our homes taught us early to expect them to have value in our lives. The charming spaces pictured  convey that joy to children who are just discovering the magic.

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Idyllic tree-swing reading nook, created by Tracy Rauch in her daughter’s room; find at http://pinterest.com/tracyrauch/ A similar example is on JenWCom‘s flickr at http://www.flickr.com/photos/jenwcom/4914477695/in/pool-539895@N24/ Both moms have been gracious in answering questions in how they accomplished the look.Idyllic tree-swing reading nook, created by Tracy Rauch in her daughter's room. (http://pinterest.com/tracyrauch/) A similar example is on JenWCom's flickr at http://www.flickr.com/photos/jenwcom/4914477695/in/pool-539895@N24/.  Both moms have been gracious in answering questions in how they accomplished the look.
I first spotted this pic on the pinterest for NYC designers Bob & Cortney Novogratz, with an embedded photo credit to FunkyDowntown.com . The tree bookcase is actually made by Nurserworks, and is available in a darker green than pictured or white, for $850 from Layla Grace at http://www.laylagrayce.com/Products/Nurseryworks-Tree-Bookcase-Forest-Green__NW8126FG.aspx

I first spotted this pic on the pinterest for NYC designers Bob & Cortney Novogratz, with an embedded photo credit to FunkyDowntown.com . The tree bookcase is actually made by Nurseryworks, and is available in a darker green than pictured or white, for $850 from Layla Grace at http://www.laylagrayce.com/Products/Nurseryworks-Tree-Bookcase-Forest-Green__NW8126FG.aspx

This bedroom bookhut (or igloo) was designed by Ben Nagaoka. Topped with a roof of felted tiles, shelves of books form a cozy reading wall around a hidden bed. In a survey titled Hot or Not, Apartment Therapy features more pictures of the book igloo, inside and out.

This bedroom bookhut (or igloo) was designed by Ben Nagaoka. Topped with a roof of felted tiles, shelves of books form a cozy reading wall around a hidden bed. In a survey titled Hot or Not, Apartment Therapy features more pictures of the book igloo, inside and out.

Blogger Carolyn Chrisman shared this DIY project for painting rainbow bookshelves -- perfect for dressing up an ordinary bookcase for a child's playroom.

Blogger Carolyn Chrisman shared this DIY project for painting rainbow bookshelves — perfect for dressing up an ordinary bookcase for a child’s playroom.

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Of course, designing for children’s books need not be anything fancy nor anything permanent. Simply including shelves or baskets of books in a children’s space allows room for their reading interest to grow.

  • For young children or toddlers: baskets or buckets put picture books in easy reach. Favorite board books can be kept by the bed for nighttime reading. Try Goodnight Moon, Goodnight Gorilla, or my favorite: Corgiville Fair.
  • As children grow, share their old favorites. Make room for new reading by gifting their old books to last year’s preschool or kindergarten teacher, or younger cousins.
  • For upper elementary or middle grade students, encourage them to get “great read” recommendations from their friends. If they say, “There are no good reads,” then ask for recommendations from someone excited about middle grade novels, like their teacher, librarian or me!

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For more from my series Living with Books:

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If you like this blog, be sure to subscribe using WordPress’s +follow option, or via email or RSS feed. I love to connect with like minded readers!

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Living With Books 06: Books Are Spooky, Too

For lovers of books, their display is part of a home’s design aesthetic. This is no less true when Hallow’s Eve has haunting at hand.

Aren’t books the magic potion that reveal all the greatest spooky stories? The dark wizardry of reading a well-told tale, hunkered down under the covers on a blustery October night? 

No surprise, then, to see books claiming their place in decking homes out for Halloween festivities. Welcome to this special holiday edition of Living With Books, featuring do-it-yourself tips for using books as you decorate your haunted manor.

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Classic Betty Grable pinup, getting spooked in style.

DIY writer Chris Nease features spells and ghost stories as centerpiece for a girls-glam Halloween party. link: http://goo.gl/BjSbp (commercial site)

SouthHouseBoutique on etsy.com sells these spook-themed book jackets to dress your books in their own holiday costumes. (link not available)

Because we have such riches on our shelves, we can readily decorate with books on hand. This, from the blog Young House Love. link: http://goo.gl/PoGk2

PoeticHome.com steals my heart with their vintage Halloween decorations, several featuring books and writing. Do click to view: http://www.poetichome.com/tag/vintage-halloween-decor/

PoeticHome.com steals my heart with their vintage Halloween decorations, several featuring books and writing. Do click to view: http://www.poetichome.com/tag/vintage-halloween-decor/

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Throughout the web*, decorators and crafters offer tips for decorating for Halloween, using books.

  • Prop open a copy of Edgar Allen Poe, open to “The Raven,” beneath candelabra draped with cobwebs and a silk raven lurking.
  • Damaged or cast-off books can be aged further by scorching their edges or dampening until they curl. Coffee or tea add the perfect aged cast. Paint covers black, or uneven brown (try shoe polish) to simulate aged leather or wood. Embellish with spooky titles – there’s the ordinary Spells and Potions, or get creative: Anatomy of a Monster, Forbidden Secrets, Rattling of Bones. Display on a drape of velvet or moss, with props like potion bottles and bones.
  • Use the loose pages of damaged books as background to Halloween artwork.  Roll them into scrolls (tie several around a form to make a haunting wreath) or use them as the backdrop to silhouettes of bats, mounted in a frame.

Of course, don’t forget the best part: if you have them, be sure to put your best spook tales on display:

  • Leave out a tub of Halloween stories for entertainment throughout the season or a quiet activity at a children’s party.
  • Move all tales of haunting and witchcraft to center stage on your shelves. Bring forth your Stephen King, Anne Rice, Clive Barker, Harry Potter and Alice Hoffman.
  • Murder and mayhem count: don’t forget that set of Agatha Christie or John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
  • Check secondhand book shops for copies of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Washington Irving’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow or Henry James’ Turn of the Screw.
  • Not really spooky tales? When stood together, spines of provocative titles are good enough to evoke your theme.  Sure, think Something Wicked This Way Comes. But also: Manuel Puig’s The Kiss of the Spider Woman, Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion or Randall Kenan’s A Visitation of Spirits.
  • Age makes anything spooky. A vintage typewriter, old hat or leather bound books of any title turn spooky when mixed with a skull, flying bats or tumble of spiders.
  • In need of a graveyard tale? Try Nathan Englander’s Ministry of Special Cases or Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book.

*For more great Halloween decorating ideas, check out my Halloween board on Pinterest to find lots of links.

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For more from my series Living with Books:

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If you like this blog, be sure to subscribe using WordPress’s follow option, or via email or RSS feed. I love to connect with like minded bloggers!

Coming next:

  • October Fiction Challenge 5: Where & How Do You Write? – Part 2
  • Writing Character: Challenge of Writing the Character Most Like Yourself – Part 2

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Living With Books 05: If Only I Could Dress Myself in Words

Another photo taken of a dress of books in an Anthropologie window.

Anthropologie steals my heart, dressing its windows with fanciful dresses made of words.

Middle of the week is perfect time to take a breather with pictures. Clearly my family was not alone in our love of books, as these pictures show imagination extends to fantasizing: If only I could dress myself in words…

Last summer, I featured a dress from a Dallas homeshow that had been formed from the crimped pages of books (link to my summer reading list article, here). At the time, it was one of the most-favorited pictures fluttering around the internet. How better to combine a girl’s two loves — words & fashion — than in a dress assembled of the two? Surely, this dress was unique.  And yet… no.  As these pictures show, our love of books has inspired more than one designer.

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This model corsetted with a skirt of tumbling pages was featured in the promotional slideshow for the Book Lover's Ball. For more info and full photo credits, visit http://bookloversball.ca/

This model — corsetted with a skirt of tumbling pages — was featured in the promotional slideshow for the Book Lover’s Ball. For more info and full photo credits, visit http://bookloversball.ca/

Photo of an Anthropologie window taken by Lynne Byrne, featured on http://www.decorartsnow.com/2011/02/25/february-25-2011-now-and-then-paper-crafts/

Photo taken by Lynne Byrne of a dress of books in an Anthropologie window. Bestill my heart!

Another store window: "Once upon a time," this wearable bridal dress was "made of words" by Jennifer Pritchard Bridal. For more, go to http://jenniferpritchardbridal.wordpress.com/2010/10/18/once-upon-a-time%E2%80%A6-the-dress-made-from-books-for-a-fairy-tale-reading/

Another store window: “Once upon a time,” this wearable bridal dress was “made of words” by Jennifer Pritchard Bridal. For more, go to http://jenniferpritchardbridal.wordpress.com/2010/10/18/once-upon-a-time%E2%80%A6-the-dress-made-from-books-for-a-fairy-tale-reading/

Perhaps my favorite, is this dress, made by artist Peter Clark for the Holland Paper Biennial in 2010.  Is it not the perfect uniform for reading?

Artist Peter Clark's dress of pages, for the Holland Paper Biennial 2010. http://uponafold.com.au/blog/post/holland-paper-biennial-2010/

Artist Peter Clark’s dress of pages, for the Holland Paper Biennial 2010. http://uponafold.com.au/blog/post/holland-paper-biennial-2010/

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For more from my series Living with Books:

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If you like this blog, be sure to subscribe using WordPress’s follow option, or via email or RSS feed. I love to connect with like minded bloggers!

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Living With Books 04: Books and Fashion

It’s Thursday. It’s been a long week. Perfect time for a photo break. Continuing the theme begun with my interior design mother’s statement that she tucks a little bookcase in every room (click here for first post), this week’s Living With Books is a bit of eye candy with books in fashion spreads.

We’re stylish. We’re sexy. We read.

Credit photographer Benoit Peverelli, torn from Elle China.

attribute to shdwbxng on tumblr

For more Living With Books:

Living With Books 01: we were a family in houses with books

Living With Books 02: Dreamt Into Our Travels, Too

Living With Books 03: Books as Portal Into Another World (or Just the Next Room)

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Living With Books 03: Books as Portal into Another World (or Just the Next Room)

Down the rabbit hole, into another world through books. (National Geographic)

I began the Living With Books series with the humble truth that my mother’s interior designs include a little stash of books in every room. As modest as these collections most often are, today seemed a day to tip the scale in the other direction.

Designing a room with books is an act of referential art: the mere presence of a book, without need for melodrama or emphasis, asserts the potential that whole, imagined worlds might, at any moment, unfold within a room.  An elegantly styled room is perfectly punctuated by the presence of a biography on Frank Lloyd Wright or Cartier, or a tabletop perspective of the interior design of Charleston, Chicago or Jaipur. With that, the accent of books in a room is yet sublime.

But what of the fantastical?

How fitting is it to have a doorway through books — even a doorway made of books — when books open whole new worlds of possibilities?

A beautiful portal through books, from Hungary

Beautiful portal through books, from Hungary. (http://beautiful-portals.tumblr.com/)

Magically suspended books through a Swiss tunnel. c. overthemoon at flickr.com.

Shared by designlovefest.com; original sources unknown.

Archway into a bookstore in Lyons, Rhone-Alps, France, by Noel Joyeux. (http://www.flickr.com/photos/isaius/904947982/in/faves-tickledpinkknits /)

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Prior posts:

Introducing the series with my family’s traditions: Living With Books

Installment 2: Living with Books 02: Dreamt into Our Travels, Too

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Have you seen great examples of books in homes, travel or otherwise? Let us know in the comments, or find me on Pinterest.

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If you like this blog, be sure to subscribe using WordPress’s follow option, or via email or RSS feed. I love to connect with like minded bloggers!

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Living With Books 02: Dreamt into Our Travels, Too

paris, at home with books, home library, writer

My parents recently confessed a sort of “escape plan” they’ve been hatching as they edge near the idea of retirement.  If they’d spoken in Mandarin and confessed a double life, I could not have been more startled and impressed!

Their nearby Manhattan is involved, as is Charleston (don’t get me started on how I love Charleston), but most ambitious is their plan to live in Paris for six months.  Considering Paris real estate costs, I have teased that they could find themselves folded sideways into a 100 square foot atelier with a limited glimpse of daylight, if one were to climb a ladder and peek out beneath attic rafters. But, between you and me, I like to imagine them here, in this lovely flat I found for rent (at book-a-flat.com) during my continued hunt for rooms that epitomize this spirit we share, of Living With Books.

For the book lovers among us, don’t you love the authenticity of the books in the flat - as elegant as the room is, they look read, don’t they?

While my parents led us on tours of elegant plantations in the South, or castles and country houses in Ireland and Scotland, I must confess my  spot for the elegance of decay.  Look at the image on my novel project page and you will see how Havana has had its hooks in me for some years, tracking the neighborhoods a friend once had to leave. There were no books in the mildew and hurricane dampened pictures I have of current-day Cuba, but I can’t help be inspired by this iconic picture, below, of Hemingway’s home outside Havana.

hemingway at home in havana, living with books

Hemingway’s home in Havana – Living with Books

You might notice that, in picking great pictures of “living with books,” I love a room where books are clearly important to the inhabitants, but that doesn’t have to mean endless walls of books.  In these rooms, as in the bookshelves my mom includes in each bedroom she designs, the importance of a little library is clear without overwhelming the room.

In my last house, I found that trying to display all of my books in one place went beyond celebrating the pleasure I felt in them. Instead, they became a weighty presence in the room. In concepts of feng shui, it is important to not have things stacked high and towering in a room — as they symbolize and affect your spirit as “things hanging over you.”

Viceroy Hotel, Kelly Wearstler

Viceroy Hotel, Kelly Wearstler

If a collection seems burdensome, especially consider thinning books on higher shelves. No reader’s pride is lost to spread your collection between more than one room!

To read the first installment of this series, click here. Or, I’d love to hear your own experiences or suggestions for the next installment in the comments below!

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Living with Books

Monkeys reading. copyright Elissa Field no repro w-out permission

Monkeys reading. c. Elissa Field

When asked about designing bedrooms, my mother (Connecticut ASID designer, Julianne Stirling) once said that she makes sure to put a little bookcase in every room.

In my parents’ 230 year-old house off the village green in Fairfield, Connecticut, my boys’ favorite room has African-carved giraffes and a porcelain elephant hiding among the books on a carved case that also features a portrait of my grandparents when they still lived in North Africa at the end of World War II. Monkey prints parody my boys’ personalities as they read in bed. It is a room Kipling or Hemingway might have brought keepsakes home to.

At the back of the house, the girls’ room, where my nieces stay and where I stayed the night before my wedding, is more delicate, its curtains gathered high as if the empire waistlines of Elinor and Marianne in Sense and Sensibilities. A copy of Austen is likely tucked among the books held on an antique latticework shelf above the bed.

Long before my mom was an accomplished interior designer, back in the first house I remember, with the 70s lemon yellow shag carpet and turquoise leather chair, there were books in every room. Coffee table books of famous artists, designers and photographers. Picasso, the impressionists. Biographies of dignitaries, inventors, trendsetters. Henry Ford, Marilyn Monroe. And fiction. A leatherbound set of Fitzgerald. Updike. Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea, Moveable Feast, Finca Vigia collected stories. Henry Miller. Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night. And the fodder of avid readers: the bent-spined, inch-thick paperbacks whose pages aged brown by the time it was my turn to read them.

Coveted, to this day, are the found books. The hand-me-downs. There is a threadbare, heavy volume of fairy tales my Grandma Aho read to us from her childhood in Michigan’s upper peninsula, whose line drawings had been painted in watercolors by herself and her sisters as girls. I have pictures of the same girls straddling the shoulders of a draft horse, patting his neck to warn his heavy hooves from stomping cabbages as he navigated the garden. Equally loved: question arose over the holidays as to who last had the dozen original clothbound Nancy Drews, printed in the 30s and 40s, that had been passed from one cousin to another, then down to my cousins and myself.  Less lovely, but equally treasured, were the horse books left by my college-age aunt for me to discover at the cottage we all shared in the summer. Or the James Bonds my brother and I traded, or the military training guides he found in family footlockers. There was the elicit, always denied, hairy-armpit copy of The Joy of Sex that finally disappeared altogether. And there are the Bibles, passed down from the last-living members of various branches of the family, with patchy recording of births and deaths and marriages written inside the covers.

We were a family who lived with books.

I carried this with me as I set up my first houses. In college, novels advanced in a line along the baseboards around the wood floor in my Richmond rowhouse, arranged by country, by year of publication. In Florida, waiting for a hurricane, books were one of three things I protected with plastic bags and packed into a sheltered closet. Along with photographs, the few things I could not bear losing to a storm.

It hadn’t occurred to me this is idiosyncratic. I’d never lived in a house without books and never took time to think of it as unusual – a joy some of us share, in surrounding ourselves with the magical worlds we’ve discovered in those pages, loving the undulating ribbon of color and texture formed by a line of spines.

Coming across interior design photographs of great rooms with books has made me aware of this kindred reality some of us share: living with books. This new column will share some of my favorite Living With Books images, in monthly editions.

Here is the first:

I have always loved a dining room with books.

A dining room with books, featured at www.atticmag.com.

Fabulous photographer chotda (santos) has photographed a number of versions of a hue-spectrumed bookcase, most notably this one below.

I love this picture, by author, photographer and gender activist Rita Banerji, of a bookseller’s stall at Kolkata’s Annual Book Fair.

In this Chicago living room, featured by Architectural Digest, books hold their own against dramatic artwork. As much as I love books, the room’s balance is crucial, as a library should reflect the owner’s pleasure in books, and not feel a weighty burden.

And what about you? I’d love to hear your favorite experiences or memories, living with books.

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A Fellow Writer Posed the Question: “How Do You Arrange Your Books?”

It is a question as personal, sultry and unexamined as asking how one gets ready for a date — asking a writer (or reader), “How do you arrange your books?”

In my first real house, I had all my books organized by the author’s country, then, within countries, by the year/period published. Within England and the US, I also had them subdivided by some trends, as might be done for lit classes, like Southern Writers, or classics vs. contemporary short story authors. I traded rare books at the time and had special parts of the book case for special and first editions, and had the books stacked so you could see pretty covers or large and small books made patterns. I LOVED it. You could stand back, look at the wall of books and see whole trends and eras unfold and evolve, and then new guys take over. I love foreign fiction and it felt like playing that old board game Risk to be able to see which countries I’d tackled (and countries or even whole continents still needing exploring).

It all ended when my son learned to walk. There were a couple new parent photos taken where I thought it was so cute to see him rifling through the pages of books he’d pulled off in piles, tumbled broken-backed onto the floor. Then a few pages went missing. Two moves later and my books are now securely — and without fanfare — stashed on shelving I put in the closet of my office. My boys are just getting old enough I might think to rearrange them again one day. On the other hand, I’ve gotten more pragmatic over the years and am more likely to make a book really fight to justify keeping its shelf space — I purge a lot more often than I used to.

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