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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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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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